Justin Bethel, a 2012IMG Academy Combine/Pre-Draft trainee,is turning heads as special teams ace for the Arizona Cardinals. He earned the admiration of Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who named Bethel as his 'Special Teams Player of the Week' after week two of the preseason. In his article, King writes, "Justin, you are officially permitted to get an apartment in Tempe. You're in."
King's praise came after the Cardinals first win of the preseason behindBethel'sspecial teams heroics. Arizona defeated the Oakland Raiders 31-27. During the win, Bethel blocked a punt midway through the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Cardinals a commanding 24-8 lead before the half. In the next quarter, Bethel followed up with a blocked extra point after an Oakland touchdown brought the raiders within 10 points. Bethel had already blocked one field goal earlier in preseason.
Arizona's head coach Ken Whisenhunt had great things to say about his rookie safety, commenting to the Arizona Republic after the game:"It's exciting when you have a draft pick making plays like that. He's got a long ways to go defensively, but he's working at it. That's what you like to see." To the Arizona Cardinal's team Web site, Whisenhunt stated, âI'd say it's a pretty safe bet he's made the team - pretty good bet.â
Bethel spent seven weeks at IMG Academy prior to the Draft, enduring the world's most advanced and comprehensivetraining program for today's pro player. His hard work helpedsecure a place in the draft after an
impressive combine performance. Bethel ran a 4.58 sec. 40 yard dash (2ndbest overall), recorded 19 repetitions on bench press (225-pounds), a 39.5 inch vertical jump(3rd best overall)and a 131 inch broad jump. He came to IMG Academy after starting for four years as a defensive back for the Presbyterian College Blue Hose, a Division I FCS program.