On the first day of Bears's minicamp, I watched Jay Cutler rear back and fire a pass to a monstrous, sleek, big-handed receiver wearing the jersey No. 83. "Holy god!" I thought to myself. "Who the hell is THAT?"
I scanned the player guide the team had given the media and spotted No. 83: Martellus Bennett. I knew his numbers from Dallas and the Giants, and I knew he was a big dude, but seeing him in person weaving between much smaller linebackers and DBs and snatching passes with hands like Trapper Keepers gave me another perspective altogether. When a professional football player stands out among other professional football players as being "big," you notice.
But while I knew Bennett's background on the field, I knew nothing of his personality. The Black Unicorn, the Cap'n Crunch video, the fact that he wrote a children's book about bees—thus far, it had all eluded me.
You can imagine where this interview was going …
I'm curious to hear about the new guys, and their transition stories into Chicago.
Am I a new guy?
OK. I'm just asking if you consider me to be a new guy.
Why wouldn't you be a new guy?
I've been here like 10 weeks, or however many weeks I've been here. It's old now.
Do you feel that way already? Like an old guy?
I moved around a lot when I was a kid, so I'm used to making friends and going to new places. I'm like a chameleon. I fit in in most environments. So I think it's been a good transition for me.
Where'd you move around?
When I was a kid? I'm originally from San Diego. I lived in Seattle, Texas, Louisiana. In eighth grade I went to three different middle schools, so I'm used to moving around. I got the family settled. Other than that, just learning how to get around is the biggest thing.
Where are you living?
I live [pauses]—I can't tell you that, because then people will come to my neighborhood and look for me. I'm the only black person in the neighborhood. I won't be that hard to find. [Laughs.]
Well regardless, what have you seen in Chicago so far?
I love Chicago. I think it's a place that has a lot to offer. My wife's a makeup artist, so it's a great place for her downtown. We'll go downtown, great food, great places. I just low key hang out. You might see me down in your neighborhood. I do a lot of biking, so there are a lot of trails I can ride the bike on, which has been fun. Other than that, it's just been – it's like a slower New York, you know?
How much time had you spent in Chicago prior to coming here?
Was there anything on your list of first things you wanted to see?
I don't really make lists. I'm a nomad. I just kind of float around, and wherever I end up that day, that's what I find out about.
Do you take the L?
The train? No.
How do you float around?
My legs. Sometimes I fly.
Have you been working on flight since birth, or is that something that came along later?
Well, I have superpowers. When I was 5, I developed the ability to fly.
What were the pitfalls of that that you had to fight through?
Just knowing when to fly so you're not noticed by that many people. And just getting around. Air traffic.
Do you fly at night?
Most of the time.
I do most of my flying at night.
Yeah, it's cool. You don't want to be too close to the sun.
That's one of the things that first-time flyers always mess up. They start going toward it.
Especially white guys. Y'all get sunburned.
Big time sunburned. I actually forgot to bring my sunscreen today.
You could use a little color though.
I know. I've been inside sick for quite some time.
[Laughs.] The sun just came out man! I'm solar-powered, so I like it when the sun's out.
So you're solar-powered –
And you can fly. What else do I need to know?
That's pretty much it.
[Points to Bennett's tattoos] You've got music notes on your neck.
I make beautiful music. I'm like a mixture of Jesus and Fergie. (Laughs.)
Do you play instruments?
I did, growing up. I played trombone, trumpet, and clarinet. But don't tell nobody.
I mean, I'm going to tell everyone everything that you're saying right now.
That's cool. I think I've told them before as well. (Pauses) I've done a lot of shit. I just like to try stuff.
So what's up next? What are you most excited about for living in Chicago?
Just making connections. There are a lot of creative companies around I'm trying to connect with. We've been working on a couple new cartoons that I've written and designed for. So this will be the next thing, just connecting with creative companies and getting in with the rest of the nerds around. The geeks.
Have you talked to Lance Briggs and Israel Idonije about that?
No, I haven't. They kind of do different stuff from me. I'm more Adult Swim-type stuff. They do more comics.
What's your favorite Adult Swim show?
Probably "American Dad." My collection's probably "Bob's Burgers," "American Dad," "Family Guy," "Regular Show," "Dexter's Laboratory." It's a long list. I like cartoons.
Do you find it hard to sit inside watching TV when you could be out flying and being powered by the sun?
I only watch TV at night.
Yeah. I just like the noise.
Any best friends on the team so far?
I'm everybody's BFF. So I'm everybody's best friend, that day. Wherever you need me, I'm there. Hugs.
At this point, a member of the Bears' media relations staff walked over and told us that it was time for Bennett to go inside.
"Thanks man!" Bennett yelled to me as he walked away.
"Thanks Martellus," I said. "Nice to meet you."
He stopped at the door. "Make sure you put a cool picture of me up there," he said.
"I will be sure to tell them to do that."
"Photoshop some wings on me," he said. "And a unicorn horn. So I look like a griffin unicorn."
"Griffin unicorn," I shouted to him as he ducked inside. "We got you."
Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @readjack.