Hamline two-sport great Duane Benson passes away

Benson was named MIAC MVP after leading Hamline to its first conference football title in 45 seasons in 1966.
Benson was named MIAC MVP after leading Hamline to its first conference football title in 45 seasons in 1966.

Dave Wright, Hamline Sports Information

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Duane Benson, one of the greatest athletes in Hamline history, passed away January 26 in Rochester, Minn. He was 73 years old.

Benson, a 1967 grad, was a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame for his efforts in football and track/field. When he arrived on campus from tiny Grand Meadow, Minn., head football coach Dick Mulkern was trying to revive the gridiron program. "You could see right away he was a tremendous athlete. He probably should have been a Division I player," Mulkern recalled. "He had a big heart and he played so hard."

Benson was mainly a linebacker, a position he went on to play in the National Football League for nine years with Oakland, Atlanta and Houston. As such, he anchored a defense that toppled St. John's twice on years after they had won the NAIA championship and did the same to Concordia the year after they were co-champs. The 6-2, 175 pounder was so versatile that, as a senior, Mulkern also used him as an offensive tackle. In the latter role, he was employed on tackle eligible plays, catching five passes, including one for a touchdown against Macalester.

Mulkern said Benson was a leader in many ways on and off the field. "He was a very humble guy," Mulkern said. "He liked to talk about "we-ness" when it came to the team. There was no second team players in his mind."

It was all capped by the 1966 season when Hamline went 6-1 in the MIAC and won its first conference football title in 45 seasons. Benson, the team captain, was named the league's Most Valuable Player and was on the All-Conference and All District teams and received Little All-American Honorable Mention.

As he did in football, Benson earned four letters in track and field and also served as a team captain. Mulkern remembered him as an outstanding high jumper and thrower. Benson was inducted into the HU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973.

In addition to his pro football career, Benson spent nearly four decades in public service in a variety of roles, including time in the Minnesota State Senate, the Minnesota Business Partnership and was an original member of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body that built and now operates U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. His widow Melissa Donehower Benson is a 1970 HU grad as is his daughter Brooke Benson Warden '93.

A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, January 31 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lanesboro, Minn. Benson lived in Lanesboro for several years.

| HU Release |