Meet the Most Interesting Man in Green Bay... Kurt Benkert
He's rocking full Halo costumes. He's the "Tony Romo of Madden" on TikTok. He's a free spirit quickly becoming a fan favorite. Packers QB Kurt Benkert opens up on his unique rise to celebrity status.
There’s a good chance that Kurt Benkert has worked his way into your life one way or another.
Of course, he’s a quarterback in the NFL. He starred at Virginia, spent three years with the Atlanta Falcons and, now, is trying to make it with the Green Bay Packers.
But off the field, Benkert is far, far more popular.
His 22,000+ followers on Twitter, 28,900+ on Instagram and… 178,600+ (!) on TikTok are always in for the perfect blend of laughs and insight and, yes, more laughs. Almost instantly, Benkert endeared himself to Packers fans. One day, his 11-month-old may be “driving” him to work. Another day, he’s asking who wants to hang out on the Fourth of July and, sure enough, spends the holiday playing cornhole with a fan’s family. Another day, he’s trying to convince his wife that he absolutely needs to purchase a full “Master Chief” Halo costume off Amazon for $440… and asking fans for help.
He shared the hilarious back ‘n forth texts for all to see.
And, yes, he purchased it…
For “Packers Week” here at Go Long, Benkert got into it all. Fresh off a second vaccine shot that he says kicked his ass, Benkert’s voice gets low as he walks past his sleeping baby’s room and — for an hour — explains how he’s become the most interesting man in town:
Eliminating material possessions from his own life helped clear his mind for this moment, this opportunity in Green Bay. He doesn’t even have a home base. Next summer, he’ll be RV’ing around the country.
The moment he realized the NFL is a business in Atlanta. He hasn’t forgotten the GM’s words. One message from Julio Jones went a long way then, too.
Why 10-year-olds all over the country think he’s the best QB ever on TikTok. He’s a celebrity on the app and explains how the stars aligned perfectly for his rise to stardom.
How he became one of the best gamers in the country. Benkert, the No. 1-ranked Fortnite player in the NFL, now makes more money gaming than he does playing football. His explanation for why anyone would want to watch other people play video games actually makes sense, too.
His playing style at QB. He’s a free spirit in life and a free spirit on the field. With a flight booked home after his tryout in Green Bay this past spring, Benkert blew away Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst to make the 90-man roster. He intends to stick around, too.
How he would’ve ended Game of Thrones.
And we have a Go Long first. Benkert’s daughter, Scout, says her first word mid-interview.
You can’t make it up.
Kurt Benkert is one of a kind.
How’s life in Green Bay? Did you get an apartment? A house?
Benkert: We were looking for houses and stuff but there’s nothing here. We weren’t going to buy a place obviously. We got a little two-bedroom apartment across from the stadium. Not too far. So, it’s an easy commute to work. I can pop in whenever I need to on off days and just keep life rolling. It’s been a nice change of pace. We’ve been living in South Florida so it’s a whole different world up here. It’s one of the coolest places I’ve lived for sure. I lived in Charlottesville and this gives me those vibes. It’s a little more down home and country but we’re enjoying.
So you’re hoping Aaron doesn’t come back, right? And your roster spot is preserved?
Benkert: I hope he does come back. I hope he comes back and gets me a ring. That’d be wonderful. Let me get the best of both.
Hey, maybe there are enough roster spots to go around.
Benkert: That’s it. I just have to play well, do my thing and I’ll be sitting pretty one way or another.
Let’s hear a little about yourself. Where are you from? What really makes you you?
Benkert: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved back and forth between there and South Florida. But I finished high school in South Florida, went to East Carolina University for my first three years, grad transferred after a bad injury and the staff got released. And then I went to Virginia and helped rebuild the program. We were 2-10 and awful my first year. And then, after that, we made the first bowl game in six years. So we kind of started the turnaround for Virginia. It was worth it. It was not easy. But it’s cool to see the success they’re having now with guys consistently committing and getting a good foundation for the program.
I went undrafted to Atlanta. I was expecting to get drafted anywhere from third to seventh round. It was a big range. But my draft class was stacked — Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Rosen, Darnold, Baker. I think it was the best draft class since ’83. A bad year to come out for an undrafted guy. But shit’s working out for me.
Thinking back to Virginia, that UConn game you went nuts (with a school-record 455 yards). There’s the on-field stuff and the off-field stuff but how were able to do that, to put the team on the map?
Benkert: My first year I got there, I left ECU in the spring so I didn’t even have spring ball before the season at Virginia. So, I had about a month or two to get ready. My play style is, I run around and sling it and push the ball downfield. It didn’t really work great my first year. But we got better and adapted my second year. We had crazy injuries but that built some resiliency in the players. The games we lost by one point the first year, we were winning those games the second year. Now, they’re rolling and winning those games more handedly now. Even my 2-10 year vs. Louisville — that was Lamar Jackson’s Heisman year — and we took them down to the wire. We had a great comeback and lost in the last 30 seconds of the game. We were playing with everyone. We just weren’t winning. So I think it built team chemistry the next year.
You’re someone who can adjust to big changes. Why were you moving so much?
Benkert: I was in third grade when we moved to Florida the first time. Then, the real estate market crashed when I was in seventh or eighth grade. We moved back to Maryland. So, I started realizing I could play quarterback for real when I was younger — seventh grade it started picking up for me. We were third in the nation in Pop Warner. Then, the real estate market crashed and we moved up north to live with family for a little while. My eighth-grade year we won the state championship in football in Maryland so it kept rolling. I just kept slinging the football and good things were happening.
That had to be traumatizing, for a kid, to lose your home.
Benkert: Yeah, a little bit.
Does that happen suddenly or do you feel it coming?
Benkert: I had an idea we were having financial problems but it was a shock to me. I was a kid. I didn’t know what was happening. We went from living in a pretty nice house to moving up north and living with relatives for a few years. Went through that and my parents got divorced and I just kind of bounced around a lot through high school and when I got to college I was kind of on my own with my wife. We were dating then. We met in high school. But we got engaged pretty early, got married pretty early and were just on our own, young, figuring everything out.
That’s a lot to handle as a kid.
Benkert: I think it’s helped me for sure. I got released from Atlanta in February and it did not faze me. It was almost a relief.
You don’t see many high school sweethearts today. Do you remember your first date and how you hit it off way back when?
Benkert: We were friends in high school. We had classes together. She had a boyfriend. I had a girlfriend. Then, we were both single for a summer. My summer going into my senior year and she was going into her first year of college. It was my birthday. She reached out and said, “Happy Birthday! What are you doing for your birthday?” I was at home. Nobody was in town. It was July 17. Friends were on family vacations and stuff and I was just in my Dad’s condo, just chilling. She said, “OK, I’m coming to pick you up. We’re going to get ice cream. You can’t be alone on your birthday.” And we weren’t dating or anything. She came and picked me up and I don’t even know if we’ve spent any days apart since then.
What’s the mindset of someone in your position? I know you’ve got to be flexible. You can’t be stressed out about something like this. Everything could change on a dime in your life.
Benkert: Obviously, you can run through every single scenario in your head. The “What-Ifs.” Controlling everything behind the scenes allows me to go into that with a clear mind and attack each day for what it is. We had a house down in Florida that we were living in — we owned it — and we actually sold it two weeks ago. It just closed yesterday. So, we sold that. I had an extra car that I didn’t want to ship up here that I sold. I downsized a lot. We went from a four-bedroom and a den — a big house with a backyard — to this apartment. I think clearing up the What Ifs and what you have to deal with, the easier it gets when this stuff is so uncertain. Whether I’m here, whether I’m somewhere else, we have a little bit of a home base with all of our stuff in one place. Best-case scenario, I’m here for the year.
It’s not life or death if things don’t work out. My rookie year? It was, “Damn. If I don’t make this work, I’m going to have to get a job in a couple months.” We have that stability off the field that is really nice and peaceful.
So, you don’t even have a home base right now? You’ll just kind of see what happens here?
Benkert: As far as I’m concerned I’ll be here for the season and I’m going to play in the preseason and play well. And then in the offseason, we’ll probably rent an RV and travel and do what we want to do. Because we have nothing holding us back from doing that. We’re trying to live a little free spirited.
I don’t think I’ve heard that before. Usually if you’re a rookie or a veteran fringe guy — and not many people call themselves a “fringe” guy — you have something to go back to. A condo in Florida. A place in Phoenix. You guys are really going to just get an RV and travel?
Benkert: Yeah. We have our lease here for a year. We’ll leave all of our stuff here. We bought our house in January and we thought that was going to be it, like that was our home base and we’d go back there every offseason. And we realized the materialness of that didn’t really do it for us. It didn’t fill a void or scratch an itch. And the market was so good, we said, “Screw it. Sell it. Take the money.” We paid off a bunch of student loans and stuff and having nothing to tie us down anywhere — we’re young with a family. We can do whatever the hell we want to now. If we want to spend two weeks in Hawaii, we’re not paying a mortgage somewhere while doing it. I see us in two years having a place with more roots.
You can look at it two ways: You could be stressing the hell out right now and thinking about every snap of every practice of every preseason game. Or, you can just kind of have fun.
Benkert: And that’s what I’m doing, man. I’ve been burned by that. I’ve worked my ass off. When it comes down to it, I work really hard in football and give it everything I have and am always prepared. I think last year with Covid really opened my eyes. I had the best camp I could possibly have. I was balling. Making plays. I was like, “There’s no way in hell they cut me and put me on the practice squad.” I was like, “I can’t be cut. There’s no way.” And I go into the meeting with the GM and he’s like, “You did everything we asked you to do. You could not have played better. We’re lucky we don’t have a preseason because we can hide you and stash you on the practice squad.” I was like, “Shit. OK.” That’s the reality of the business. That was a tough pill to swallow but, at the same time, it gave me so much freedom and took such a weight off my shoulders, that I can control everything I can and they still can’t keep me on the team. That’s just part of being an undrafted guy. Until you step a foot on the field in the game, and people have to see it, they’re not worried about somebody stealing you.
That was Thomas Dimitroff then?
Benkert: Yeah. They did look after me in different ways and stuff. That was a tough reality of the business for me. As soon as I got cut, before you’re put on practice squad, you have 24 hours. You’re not allowed in the building. You’re not allowed to have your playbook. You’re a free agent for a day. The first text I got within 20 minutes was Julio (Jones). It’s cool to see guys like that recognize how I played—behind the scenes—that nobody would really know. They make it a little easier to swallow to say, “Keep doing what you’re doing. When you get your chance, you’ll be fine. But they have the leverage right now.” That was a good Welcome to the NFL moment three years in. I’ll definitely remember that one.
What did Julio say to you?
Benkert: Everyone was shocked that I was cut because I was playing really well. But he was like, “Look. They have all the leverage right now. It won’t always be like this. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let them change how you play your game. You’re doing well. It will work out when you get your opportunity.” It’s nice to hear from guys like that, that so many people respect. I respect and look up to him.
And the bad luck of it also is that everyone who saw how good you really were that camp in Atlanta — the front office, the coaches — all ended up getting fired.
Benkert: Yes. Exactly. The new people come in and they don’t look at anything you’ve done while you were there. They just go back to your college film. Because I’m a guy who hasn’t played. So if I wasn’t high on their list coming out of college, they’ll just go and get their guys. The silver lining of it was being able to start fresh. I wasn’t even signed here. I was a tryout guy. My back was against the wall. I just had to show them what I could do. It was cool that that’s the story of how my career as a Packer starts. Nothingwas handed to me. I had a flight booked home after the tryout that they had to cancel. For me, that’s the coolest part of it.
What’s that feeling like? When you literally have a flight scheduled to go home after this tryout?
Benkert: Man, I shed tears in the car. It was cool, man. I’ve always believed in myself but to have the odds stacked against you and to come out like that was a really cool moment.
Who do you think you impressed?
Benkert: I walked off the field and said, “I appreciate you having me here,” and went to shake LaFleur’s hand and Gute’s hand. Gute kind of had an extended, longer handshake. He didn’t just let me back off of him. He said, “We’re going to bring you upstairs and sign you. Congratulations.” It was a really cool moment. Especially somewhere like this where I know the history of guys in my shoes having success.
What was it really like there through OTAs and minicamp when everybody is talking about Aaron? Literally everyone at ESPN is talking about it and you’re a quarterback directly affected by this all. In talking to players, it seems like guys genuinely do not know what is going to happen.
Benkert: Yeah, no clue. I’m fortunate that I was so deep in the playbook, learning new stuff, that I really didn’t have time to worry about it. I know that directly affects my situation but I’m part of a team and I want to win. And he’s the best player in the league and, in my opinion, the best to ever play the game. At that position. It’s a cool opportunity to be part of a team that he’s on. For me, it was easy to block out because — every day, every night — I’m in the building trying to learn the playbook.
Is this on guys’ minds?
Benkert: I don’t really know, man. I think out of anybody in the league who could just show up when camp starts, it’s that guy. He’s different, man. He’s built different. He’s the best to ever do it for a reason. And I think people are looking forward to him coming back.
We know you’re a gamer. You love that. And I thought the whole Halo suit was a joke at first. I didn’t think you were going to actually buy it.
Benkert: (Laughs) It was hilarious. I bought it and actually returned it the next day because it wasn’t up to par. I would’ve kept it if it was good material but it was bad material. It was good for a quick video and the picture but I have my eyes peeled on a legitimate one. I may have to pay a little bit more but I want one of those.
How much did the one you bought cost?
Benkert: It was $440. And I enjoyed every second of it.
So you didn’t just return it because it cost a lot of money? It genuinely wasn’t up to par?
Benkert: It wasn’t up to par. I had a series I was going to do on TikTok. I was going to go all out like Master Chief does type of things. But I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t move in the suit. Plus, I think it was for a guy who was like 5-7. I didn’t even have my crotch covered.
TikTok is one thing I haven’t given into…
Benkert: I didn’t know it was going to blow up like that. One video after another just kept getting good views and my following kept growing. I’m like a semi-TikTok star. It’s kind of weird.
I’m a novice, I guess. I thought this was for teenage girls.
Benkert: More people know me for video games and content than they do for football, and it’s a pretty weird space to be in. It’s fun, man. I get to do cool things and meet cool people. I get paid to do things I enjoy doing. It’s been a whole new world of content and media and I didn’t go to school for that. I went to school for finance which was boring but it’s been really cool to branch off into that because competitive video games has been a side passion of mine for a long time that I never really told anybody about because of the stigma of video games — people thought if you cared about video games all the time you weren’t caring about what you should be doing. Football. Or whatever. I’ve found a good way to manage both and excel at both.
I have 10-year-old kids telling me I’m the greatest quarterback of all-time. Which I’m obviously not. But it’s just because it’s such a cult following on there. If you interact and make cool videos, they love you more than if you’re good at football. It’s nuts.
How did you break through?
Benkert: I think I posted one video that went viral. It was my first pass in the NFL. I was rolling out left and threw a 30- or 40-yard dot on the sideline. That was my first video and it had a lot of views. I think it had 1 million to 2 million. And then I started posting other stuff. I would do like Madden content which I hate Madden. But I did a lot of, “NFL quarterback plays Madden,” and I’d say what I was going to do before I did it and what the defense was doing. And people really loved that stuff.
Like you’re Tony Romo?
Benkert: Basically, I was the “Tony Romo of Madden.” I was doing a bunch of different stuff like that and it kept gaining traction and momentum. It was already a good build on what I was doing video game-wise because that was my real passion. That doesn’t get the same amount of views but TikTok was a good mix of being able to post a bunch of different stuff I was into.
How do you get paid off this?
Benkert: So, I get paid on Twitch. I stream a lot during the offseason. Like four times a week for five hours a day. So, I’ll stream like 20 hours a week where I’m playing video games and talking in the chat — people who subscribe to me — and I get paid for that. G Fuel Energy and Thursday Boots are the two product sponsors I have. So, I’ll have their logos on stuff. Those are products that I use but I actually started using them before I was getting paid. I just like their product and we came to a mutual agreement to promote for them.
And six months ago, I got signed to a professional team for gaming. “Ghost Gaming,” I’m on their roster. I get paid on a bunch of different avenues for all that stuff. That turned into one of my bigger deals. I’m a brand ambassador and a consultant for a website-builder called Universe. It’s a mobile app that’s really easy. You can build your own website from there. I started using them to build my LinkedIn bio. We just struck good luck there and I got a good deal with them and signed with them for a year of work.
I just leveraged social media and what I do with brands that I already enjoyed working with. And it turns into money and events.
That’s so smart. That’s where everyone is living.
Benkert: This is the first year I’ve made more money off the field than on it. That’s part of the no-stress in being able to go out there and play football freely. I don’t rely on football to pay for my future or my bills. I can literally go out there and just enjoy it. It’s not like I have to get a job in a month if I get cut.
Was there a moment you knew, “Holy crap, this is it?”
Benkert: When I got invited to my first paid event after my rookie year in 2019. It was a Fortnite Pro-Am where there were 50 pro Fortnite players and 50 celebrities, athletes, whatever. We played in a big-ass tournament for charity. It was like a million dollars for charity. They paid me $1,000 to go out there and they put me up in a nice hotel — all expenses paid. It was in LA. It was like a block from Rodeo. It was just nuts. So once I got paid for that, I was like, “Damn, I should take this shit seriously. There’s actual money. You can do cool things playing Fortnite.” I went back, took the money and upgraded my setup. I re-invested in myself. Now, it’s just been bizarre. I have a PC sponsorship from Razer. I have a good formula for how I put out content on gaming and I have a backlog of content for when I’m busy and traveling. I’ll post old stuff I’ve already made. It’s about constantly posting but not over-posting and being relevant. It’s a cool industry. I kind of lucked into it by being good at Fortnite.
I’m 33 and this will sound like I’m 63. Can you explain to me why in the hell people watch other people play video games?
Benkert: The best way I can put it is that in peoples’ spare time some people like watching movies, some people like watching TV shows. People normally have preferences. So the third category of that is people like watching other people live with interaction. So there’s not many places you can go to interact with some of your favorite people. That’s where Twitch fills that void for a lot of people. Instead of watching TV, they can go hang out with some of their online friends and talk in a chat while watching somebody play a video game that they like playing.
There’s an interactive element to Twitch, then. People can leave comments and you can answer them?
Benkert: Yep. Live.
How do you have time? Not to sound like that fan screaming, “Get in the playbook!” But, seriously, you have an 11-month-old and you’re a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
Benkert: My day right now, our baby is up so early. She’s up at like 5:30. We’re just making it through until the first nap at like 9. So we get breakfast, do stuff around the house, hang out with the baby, play, and then 8:30’ish I go in to work out until 11 or 11:30. Come home. Lunch. Do stuff with the family. After dinnertime when I have to stream that night… you can probably hear her. When I do stream, it’s like 7 til 10 or 11. That’s just a normal day. I don’t stream every single day. But in the offseason, early on, I’d stream a lot and then it tapers back. I make time for all of the right things at the right times.
You have to take time away from football or you’ll be burnt out. It’s a long season.
What kind of Fortnite player are you?
Benkert: I was the back-to-back No. 1 Fortnite player in the NFL for two years. I’m pretty good.
That explains a lot of what we’ve been talking about then.
Benkert: I’m not just one of the guys who likes to play. I get pissed if we lose.
Any memorable moment? Any specific kill?
Benkert: I don’t know if you know a guy named, Tfue. So my pro player I was playing in a tournament with died and it was me vs. this guy who was the best in the world at the time. I got lucky and absolutely dogged him. That was one of my greatest moments and helped me win a little more money for my charity, too.
So if Kurt Benkert is The Most Interesting Man in Green Bay — we’ve got all the TikTok stuff, all the video game stuff — what else are we missing here? What else do people need to know about you?
Benkert: I post videos of me skateboarding from time to time. I just recently picked that back up for fun. Nothing too dangerous. I used to skateboard all the time as a kid. My Dad actually made me stop when I was in sixth grade because he wanted me to take football more seriously. But I loved that. I love TV shows.
(Baby makes an audible sound in background)
I think she is saying, “Dada,” for the first time on the phone! This is a huge deal.
Did she really just say it there for the first time?
Benkert: I’m pretty sure she just said it in this interview. So this might be the best of all-time. This is awesome.
I love TV shows. Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders, I can’t wait for Outer Banks to come out. I’m into a lot of different stuff. I like having fun.
Loved the first five, six seasons of Thrones but then it turned to shit. Especially the last season.
Benkert: Yeah, I was disappointed.
If you’re writing that show, how would you have ended it?
Benkert: I probably wouldn’t have extended it after the Battle of Winterfell. I would’ve ended the season there and then figured out a way to not screw that up. Because that was the best episode, in my opinion, of the whole series.
You liked Arya flying through the sky? Like it’s Disney?
Benkert: I loved it. I loved it. I loved that part. But I hated what came after it. I’m a cheeseball, though. I like good endings. I like that shit.
Maybe that’s it. I love the ruthless killings and all of the villains. Ramsay. Joffrey. They’re so terrible, it’s great. I was hoping the Army of the Dead marched through Winterfell, killed everybody and there would be two or three characters that survive and they’ve got to run down to King’s Landing to let everyone know they’re coming. That work?
Benkert: Yeah, I feel that. They botched the ending. I think there’s another series coming out that was all before that, right? I’m looking forward to that.
What is your favorite show of all-time?
Benkert: I absolutely love Peaky Blinders. I loved Sons of Anarchy. I don’t really have a favorite but anything that’s like that, I’m all about. I like Vikings, too. Our show to pop on as background noise was New Girl. We’ve seen New Girl maybe six or seven times through. New Girl is like The Office to us.
Are you a prankster? What is your personality like?
Benkert: I wouldn’t say I’m a “prankster.” I’m a “talk shitster.” I love talking shit. I’m super competitive and I talk a lot of shit. I’m a jokester. I joke with people and make fun of people. And I love when it’s dished back to me, too. … I also don’t get into situations where I’m going to lose an argument or a joke, though. I’m very selective on what my jokes are. AJ Dillon came at me on Twitter on the other day. I wasn’t going to lose that.
What’s the best shit you’ve talked behind the scenes?
Benkert: The old men jokes with Matt Schaub and Matt Ryan. Mostly Schaub. We both went to Virginia so there’s a little bit of a connection there. And we used to play mini hoop basketball in the locker room so it was good Old Guy/Young Guy rivalry. He’d come at me, when I had long hair, “Hey, are you ever going to cut that mop?” And I’d say, “I have enough for both of us.”
As a player, what else should we know about your game? How do you stick long term?
Benkert: If people watched me in college, it’s changed a little bit. I like pushing the ball downfield and my best attribute is throwing the ball on the run. If it’s not there, I try to create. I scramble to throw, not scramble to run. I watched a lot of Aaron Rodgers in college and a lot of Matt Stafford. I try to find guys I felt like I had a similar skillset to, so it’s a dream coming here.
Growing up with Manning and Brady, I never watched those guys because I didn’t play like them. Everybody’s like, “Brady is the best of all-time. Watch his film.” But my play style doesn’t match up with that. I tried so hard to be something I wasn’t. And once I started honing in on what my playing style was, I got a lot better. That’s what I’m going to keep doing.
The second play is the best play in football. So much of it is feel and timing and taking what they give you but — when it’s the right opportunity — use your other talent.
And here your daughter is saying “Dada” for the first time.
Benkert: That’s a cool way to go through an interview.
Has she said any other words yet?
Benkert: No, she’s been babbling a little bit. She’s maybe tried to say, “Dog.” But that “Dada” was the first one. So, it’s pretty exciting.
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