By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Strapped in the pads, his eyes hiding behind a black visor, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett is an imposing football figure.
To fans, Bennett is a dominant and loud Pro Bowler. He’s as tenacious and consistent, a credit to his work ethic. So, coming off a career year of 90 catches — 25 more than his second-most total of 65 in 2013 — what does Bennett expect from himself this season?
“The same awesomeness I bring every year,” Bennett said with a laugh.
But the 28-year-old Bennett wants his 18-month-old daughter, Jett, to grow up seeing something different than the star tight end. He wants Jett to see a man who accomplished whatever he put his mind to.
Bennett just created his first animated short film, a 28-minute cartoon featuring hip-hop artist Asher Roth, ESPN anchor Cari Champion and himself. It took 14 months of work, that coming in time away from football. It’s one of his passions.
“I feel like my ultimate goal is to be able to tell my daughter that she can be anything she wants to be,” Bennett said. “But then it comes down to the fact — how can you tell somebody that if you never go be everything you’re supposed to be?”
“ZOOVIE” is Bennett’s first animated film, and it’s about an optimistic kid named Cosmo who’s on a mission to create a blockbuster movie. Cosmo represents Bennett and his ambitions.
Once his playing career is over, Bennett hopes for a career creating animated movies to inspire children. He views this as a five-year plan, with his first feature film to debut in 2018. Bennett has worked with Dreamworks and other studios to gain knowledge of creating animations.
One of the most unique aspects for Bennett was unveiling his film to teammates during training camp in Bourbonnais and, more specifically, watching how they observed the movie.
“‘Dude, you made a (expletive) movie,'” Bennett said of his teammates’ reaction. “But I’m just ready to move on to the next thing, because it’s just part of the process of the growth of where I’m trying to go.”
Becoming a Pro Bowl football player is a remarkable accomplishment in its own right. So many follow the football dream until it comes to an end. Countless play in the NFL but don’t reach such an elite status. Bennett achieved it, currently in the prime of his career. And now he’s leaving a mark in the animation field.
Life has been busy but rewarding for Bennett, who is attempting to take it all in.
“I’m so focused on that next step and the plan to get where I want to be,” Bennett said. “Every once in a while, I have to stop and be like, ‘I’m going to buy a cake today that says Great Job Making a Movie.”
Bennett is one of football’s most unique characters. He’s a monstrous figure on the field and a warm, rich personality everywhere else.
Yet, Bennett is also never one to hold back. He’s as brutally honest as they come. That came to a head Wednesday when his candid comments to Chicago Magazine on Jay Cutler’s leadership were published.
“Why does everyone always assume the quarterback is the leader?” Bennett said to Chicago Magazine. “Leading the offense and leading the team are two different things. Sometimes I like Cutty, and sometimes I don’t. When I think of a leader, I think, ‘If he started a company, would guys come to work for him?’ There’s a lot of guys on our team who, if they started a business, it’d be, ‘F— you, I’m gonna go work at McDonald’s.'”
By now, Cutler knows Bennett’s outspoken nature well enough to let it slide.
“Marty, he’s going to be an opinionated guy,” Cutler said Wednesday in a calm, casual manner. “It’s just kind of who he is. That’s not going to change anytime soon. Some of us agree with some of the stuff Marty says. Some of us don’t agree with some of the stuff Marty says. But Marty’s going to say it either way.”
That’s the Bennett football fans have come to know and love.
When the pads are strapped and helmet is locked, Bennett becomes a mean, physical force of a tight end. He’s going to keep fighting to top his rising numbers — while keeping the same awesomeness, as he said.
Away from the football field, Bennett is a man enjoying the gifts of life and making the most of all his talents. It’s what he wants to define him.
“I just consider myself a regular individual who tries to maximize all my God-given abilities,” said Bennett. “I’m just trying to be everything I could possibly be before I die.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.