The Washington Football Team continued to bolster its offensive line when it claimed Beau Benzschawel off waivers on April 13.
Benzschawel, who played for the Wisconsin Badgers in college, joins his third NFL team after signing with the Detroit Lions as a college free agent in 2019. Here are five things to know about one of the newest additions to Washington's roster.
1. He starred as a tight end and defensive end in high school.
Benzschawel was only a three-star recruit coming out of Grafton High School in Wisconsin, but he was actually one of the better players the state had to offer. ESPN ranked him as the 39th-best prospect at his position and 14th overall in the state. But he wasn't known as an offensive lineman back then; rather, he played a mix of tight end and defensive end.
Whether he was on offense or defense, Benzschawel proved he could do it all as an All-North Shore Conference and all-region pick at both positions. He recorded 60 tackles and 5.5 sacks while catching 13 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns his senior year. His ESPN scouting report praised his strong hands and "the ability to snag passes thrown over his head and below his waist and displays good concentration."
Benzschawel didn't only have one memorable year, either; he was an all-conference selection in his sophomore and junior seasons. He was also a two-time team MVP with the Blackhawks.
Benzschawel's scouting report also believed he could make a switch to offensive line in college. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened. He redshirted his freshman year, but was a key part of Wisconsin's offense the following season, appearing in eight games with six starts.
2. He was part of a dominant offensive line at Wisconsin.
Benzschawel was a permanent addition to the Badgers' offensive line by the start of his redshirt sophomore season, and that led to a long, strong run of dominant ground performances from the team.
Wisconsin's running attack got better each season with Benzschawel manning the right guard position. After paving the way for a rushing average of 203.1 yards per game in 2016, the Badgers' offensive line allowed just 1.5 sacks per game in 2017, which led the Big Ten that year, and helped the offense finish second in the conference with 222.9 rushing yards per game.
Another dominant season followed in 2018; the Badgers rushed for 273.4 yards per game, while Jonathan Taylor led the country with 2,194 rushing yards. All the while, the quintet of Benzschawel, center Tyler Biadasz, right tackle David Edwards, left guard Michael Deiter and left tackle Jon Dietzen remained close and got together each week at Red Robin, a popular hamburger restaurant. That eventually led to a nickname: the Red Robin High Council.
In another example of the offensive line's dominance, Taylor told Sports Illustrated about one instance during a 2017 practice when the group opened a hole at the line of scrimmage that was so wide, he was hesitant to go through it.
"I didn't think a hole was supposed to be that big," Taylor said. "Those guys have got that thing sealed off."
3. He's willing to do whatever necessary to improve and help the team.
Benzschawel went undrafted in 2019, but it sounds like he was a priority college free agent for several teams, as the Detroit Lions beat out a number of other interested clubs in signing him. He ultimately never played an offensive snap for the Lions; he was cut and re-signed to the practice squad multiple times that year.
But for what it's worth, it looks like his work ethic played a role in why the team kept bringing him back.
"He's improving every day," then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's one of those guys that [offensive line coach] Jeff [Davidson] has really challenged and moved him around to other positions there on the interior. I think that's been to his benefit."
The Lions switched Benzschawel to center during his rookie year, so he spent the first few months continuing his development "not only in the field, but in the weight room as well as football I.Q. stuff." He still had some work to do at the time, but his teammates like Graham Glasgow were noticing his efforts.
"He's made a lot of strides," Glasgow told The Detroit News. "For someone that's never played the position before, it's a tough position to get into, because there are a lot of operation things and mechanical things you need to get used to, such as silent counts, head bobbing, the actual act of snapping the ball, all that stuff."
Benzschawel was either inactive or did not play in most of the Lions' games in his rookie year, but he was eventually rewarded for his hard work by receiving a handful of snaps in the final two games of the season. While he still has not played an offensive snap, his past indicates he tries to make sure he is ready if his number is called upon.
4. He's an avid outdoorsman
Everyone has a passion, and in Benzschawel's case, that passion is being an outdoorsman.
Benzschawel's social media pages are littered with photos of him either on a boat or with a deer. Two of his favorites activities are fishing and bow hunting, but he said on the Back40 podcast that he simply enjoys doing anything outdoors.
Fishing became a bonding routine for him and his fellow Wisconsin offensive linemen. Known as the angler of the group, he would often bring his teammates out on his 18-foot, 60-horsepower boat to fish for smallmouth bass on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.
Prior to the 2018 season, ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich even joined the group on Benzschawel's boat to talk about their relationship.
5. He provides more depth on Washington's offensive line.
Benzschawel has only played in three games thus far, but he can still add value to Washington's offensive line.
For starters, Benzschawel has the experience of playing multiple positions since being moved to center for the Lions. So, if Washington needed someone to play either center or guard in a pinch, Benzschawel could be of use.
Benzschawel has also proven he can help the team in other ways. In addition to all of his previous experience being on special teams, he played on the defensive line for the Lions' scout team. That move was made primarily because of injuries, but Benzschawel could fill that role if Washington found itself in a similar situation.
Rivera likes to sign players who are dedicated to helping the team regardless of role, and it looks like Benzschawel should have no problem doing that.