The Bennett Brothers vs. Everyone
— -- This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Aug. 22 College Football Preview Issue. Subscribe today!
MICHAEL AND MARTELLUS Bennett tend to perplex people. This becomes clear when we stop for lunch at a West Hollywood café, the kind of crunchy, actressy place that serves food on wooden boards. The brothers split up as soon as they walk in. Michael circles a display of expensive sweets ("I don't eat American chocolate," he sniffs), and Martellus hovers near the entrance, offering health and safety advice to customers as they leave the restaurant. "Wrap it up," he counsels a man walking out the door. The guy stares at him, trying to deduce why a stranger is telling him to wear a condom.
We find a table on the patio, and the brothers sit next to each other. If not for their massive builds -- Michael is 6-foot-4 and Martellus 6-foot-6 -- the two NFL stars could easily be confused for LA hipsters. They're both wearing ripped black jeans and designer T-shirts and have soft beards that frame their chins like fuzzy halos. Michael, who is stouter, says his facial hair is supposed to be disorienting. "I always wanted to look like: 'Is he homeless or is he rich?'" he says. "That's my No. 1 goal."
A waitress approaches and asks Michael whether he ordered the roast chicken. "Don't be racist," he says, a joke that causes her hands to tremble a little as she sets down the plate. (He did, in fact, order the chicken.) "What kind of salt y'all got? Himalayan salt?"
Martellus dips a spoon into the bowl she has placed in front of him. "This is a heavy-ass soup," he says. "Can I have some more tortilla strips? I like that crunch."
The waitress asks whether they want anything else.
"World peace," Michael replies.
"Awesomeness," Martellus says.
This is a lesson that everyone who encounters the Bennetts eventually learns: At any given moment, they might be screwing with you. Take, for example, our conversation about Jerry Jones. As Martellus finishes his soup, he tells a story about the time he visited the billionaire's mansion for tea and perused Jones' selection of fancy cutlery. "Once you get rich," he says, "you start collecting weird s--- like silverware."
When I ask the brothers what they would collect if they were as wealthy as the Cowboys' owner, they respond at the same time and without skipping a beat: "People."
"I would have somebody who has my blood type and my kidneys -- stuff like that," Michael says. "They would just be on deck. I'd be like, 'My kidney's failing -- it's time!'"
Martellus wags his finger at an imaginary organ donor. "Oh, is that water, Jimmy? It better be!"
"It's time for your heart," Michael says. "I'm sorry -- it's gotta go."
I scan both of their faces, attempting to confirm that they're kidding. Martellus picks up his spoon. "This soup is so good," he says.