'Most hated' tweet helps Cardinals' Eno Benjamin become an entrepreneur

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals rookie running back Eno Benjamin saw a hole in the marketplace and hit it this past January.

Benjamin, the Cardinals' seventh-round pick in April's draft, played college football at nearby Arizona State, where he set the Sun Devils' single-season rushing record and graduated from the school's W.P. Carey School of Business in three years. A native of Wylie, Texas, Benjamin knew about the rivalry between his Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats before he arrived on campus, and he quickly learned about its intensity during his first two seasons.

Then, in a tweet on May 20, 2019, he unknowingly laid the foundation for an entrepreneurial endeavor.

He not only got his wish as the most hated man in Tucson but also earned himself a nickname.

"They kind of ran off with that," Benjamin said.

In January, after declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft, Benjamin announced that he had launched a line of shirts -- including one that has "Tucson's Most Hated" emblazoned under a caricature of Benjamin stiff-arming a defender -- that are being sold on a website named after his full first name: Enotobong.

"I knew when I had this whole opportunity, knowing that you have the moment, you got to seize it," Benjamin said. "And so, just trying to put out as much content as I can. Just knowing that over the years, I'm gonna look back and be happy that I did it."

An off-the-cuff tweet that turned into a nickname that turned into a T-shirt that turned into a brand isn't blind luck. It comes from Benjamin's interest in sports marketing and has him developing his brand before he sees the first snap of his rookie season.

"I think it's amazing," said Tayo Adewon, Benjamin's marketing representative.

"One of the things we preach, and you see it everywhere, is being more than an athlete, building your brand. There'll come a time [when you'll have to ask yourself], what are you gonna do? What type of passions do you like to do? What type of hobbies? What types of things can you do to generate revenue and stay relevant off the field? And so, Eno's a really smart kid."

Benjamin doesn't know what he wants to do after football, whether marketing, finance or accounting, but he has "always been into those classes," he said.

When it was time to design his T-shirt line, Benjamin was hands-on. He drew his logo and put his own ideas on paper. With the help of Adewon, Zach Soskin, Benjamin's other marketing rep, and the e-commerce brands they partnered with, the final designs were picked. The result, now on sale, is the "Tucson's Most Hated" and the "All About the Benjamin" shirts, which come in a variety of styles priced from $25 to $60.

"It's been going really well, and [he's been able] to immerse himself into the business side of being a professional athlete," Adewon said.

"He always wants to know what's going on, why this is the way it is, etc. etc. I'm really excited for him because he's one of the guys that get it, and he's really young, so it's really cool to have a guy that gets it at that age."

Although Adewon said there are plans to keep expanding Benjamin's line of shirts as the 2020 season approaches, how he performs on the field will be a major factor in the brand's long-term success. Benjamin rushed for 2,707 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in his three seasons in Tempe, but he enters his rookie season behind Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds on the Cardinals' depth chart.

As a member of the state's professional football team, Benjamin also risks alienating with the "most hated" shirts some of his fans who root for the Wildcats.

"That was a question that went through my head," Benjamin said. "That was something I thought about.

"I'm faithful to my school, but just knowing what else I'm gonna have to take just to let them [Arizona Wildcats fans] back in my life, I'm going to be back in their life as well. So we're gonna see."