And what he hopes he's teaching his daughter about chasing her dreams.
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Martellus Bennet and daughter AJ
Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Staff/Getty Images

Earlier this month, college football fans clad in bright orange or vibrant purple, respectively, flooded the streets of the Crescent City to witness the crowning of the college football national championship. New Orleans welcomed Clemson and LSU fans, national media outlets, and a host of famous faces all eager to watch this epic match-up of the two best teams in the country. One such famous face was that of Super Bowl champion, Martellus Bennett, in New Orleans playing the role of “Professor” for Dos Equis College Football Football College. The brand that is the official beer of college football playoffs played front and center for the events surrounding the big game.

But when Bennett sat down with Southern Living in the Dos Equis lounge at the Le Meridian hotel, he had a lot more on his mind than football. Now retired from the game, Bennett has a whole host of new ventures from children’s books to ice cream, but central in his focus is being dad to five-year-old daughter, Austyn Jett Rose Bennett, A.J. for short.

Bennett opened up with us about just how much fatherhood has taught him, and specifically being a father to a daughter. “I think the biggest thing is, it makes me more aware of what women go through…You can read about it. You can see it. But it doesn’t impact you the same way unless you have a little one.”

The proud papa told us that while A.J. is still young, she is full of life, very smart, and she’s paying attention. Bennett knows that what he shows his daughter now will shape the woman she becomes. “She’s five years old, but the number one way I can teach her about relationships now is by the way I love my wife. Right? The way she sees me love my wife is the way she sees relationships can be.” He said he’s very aware of how he is at home and adds, with genuine warmth in his voice and a sparkle in his eyes, “I love my wife, so it’s easy.”

Bennett is also thinking about the long game with his daughter. He’s paying attention to the world at large and how it might affect A.J.’s future. “I’m always looking at what women are doing and how things are moving because I have a creative daughter…For the last two years there hasn’t been a single woman nominated for an Oscar as a director. That’s crazy, right?” he asked, and then continued, “I notice those things even more so because my daughter wants to be a director and she should have a fair chance of winning an Oscar…I want to cheer for her when she’s made an Oscar-worthy movie one day,” said with a proud smile.

He wants his daughter to feel like there are no limits and she can chase any and all dreams she has. It’s an attitude towards life he strives to live by and be the example for her, but also for anyone else who needs it. The Super Bowl champion who grew up in Texas spoke about how many professional athletes come to the end of their playing careers and are then without direction or goals for the first time in their lives.

“As humans, we have so much potential that we tend to never allot because we get comfortable, or routine, or we don’t want to see change. We don’t want to see change in our lives, then we can’t see change in ourselves.”

Bennett closed the chapter on his football career when he retired in 2018, but he certainly hasn’t slowed down. He’s leaned into that change and transitioned into business, activism, film production, and even the music world.

“I try to be one of the people who lead[s] by example. I believe that you truly can become anything and everything, right? You can do anything you want to do if you’re willing to go through everything you want to do it.” He noted that he didn’t want to get to the end of his life and still have a should have, would have, could have, list. He hopes that anyone—athlete or not—who finds himself or herself in a place of transition sees only possibility, not limitations.

“Sometimes, you have to give yourself permission to follow your dreams. We tend to wait for someone else to tell us we can, or we should, when really you should just give yourself permission to be what you want to be.”

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By living by these principles, Bennett knows he’s showing his daughter the way. She doesn’t just see that he played football, she is present and involved in all of his new ventures as well. The dedicated father is teaching her by doing that, “You’re allowed to have more than one dream. And you’re allowed to accomplish more than one dream. Just because you accomplished one of them doesn’t mean that the other ones aren’t possible. You’ve already proven that you can catch a dream. So, the best thing is to have multiple dreams to go out there and…never stop running after those.”