Tim Benford and Jeremy Caldwell have been on a journey together for a very long time. They hope it continues today.
Benford and Caldwell were stars together at Red Bank High School. They went their separate ways in college -- Benford to Tennessee Tech as a wide receiver and Caldwell to Eastern Kentucky as a defensive back -- but played against each another in the Ohio Valley Conference and had very productive careers.
Today is the third and final day of the NFL draft, rounds 4-7, and both players want to hear their names called. If that doesn't happen, each wants the chance to sign with some team as an undrafted free agent and have a shot at making the roster in training camp.
"I'm just ready to get it over with," said Benford, who was measured at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds during the NFL combine. "It's out of my control right now, so all I can do is wait. It's been a long time leading up to this, and I want to find out where I'm going and get started."
Benford had a strong senior season with 65 receptions for 923 yards and was named the OVC's offensive player of the year. He was in Cookeville earlier this week to pick up his OVC championship ring.
Caldwell, meanwhile, had 51 tackles and two interceptions and averaged 23.7 yards a kickoff return. He was first-team OVC as a returner and second-team as a defensive back, as well as a member of the Associated Press's All-America third team.
He said he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash and performed well overall at Eastern Kentucky's pro day.
"I've talked to a few teams [since then]," he said. "I can't really tell what's going to happen -- it's all a guessing game. I'll be ready for whatever."
A mock draft on the National Football Post website has Benford going in the seventh round, with pick No. 225, to the Seattle Seahawks. Writer Wes Bunting describes Benford as a "solid route runner who has savvy to his game. He can be inconsistent catching the football but knows how to get open out of his breaks and adjust."
Bunting has University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman going in the sixth round (pick No. 176), to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coleman threw out the first pitch at Friday's Chattanooga Lookouts game and like Benford and Caldwell has tried to keep busy all week to avoid thinking too much about what might happen.
Benford said he and Caldwell are "best friends" and have been for a long time. Caldwell said it was a unique experience playing against his buddy in college: Tech beat EKU 21-14 in 2011, but Benford was held to three catches for 16 yards. The trash talking in that game was "too much," Caldwell said.
The friends now look to an uncertain future, together as usual.
"It's cool to be going into this at the same time, and we support and motivate each other," Caldwell said. "We had a great time playing together in high school, playing against each other in college, and we've talked about what it would be like to be on the same team [in the NFL].
"We'd love to try that again. That would be even better."
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...