Stetson Bennett, A Confident Yet Humble Heisman Trophy Finalist
NEW YORK - Stetson Bennett has always had to have confidence in his abilities as a quarterback, due to the fact that others doubted him time after time after time. Coming out of high school he didn't even have a recruiting ranking in the 2017 class, while the Georgia coaching staff doubted him enough to only offer him a spot as a walk-on quarterback. After transferring to Jones College for a year Kirby Smart and company trusted him enough to offer him a last minute scholarship before national signing day, while pretty much everyone else still doubted. He still didn't let it deter his confidence and spoke about the opinions of others to the media at the Grand Marquis Hotel on Heisman Eve
“Us quarterbacks were just talking, people are going to have opinions. It’s not my job to do that,” he added. “I’ve got enough on my plate. I walked on here. I’ve got to focus on doing my job, otherwise I just don’t think I’m going to do it as well.”
After coming back to Georgia on scholarship, he had to prove himself to someone who ended up being one of his biggest doubters, UGA head coach Kirby Smart. Bennett started off as scout team quarterback in his return and it looked as if he'd never see important playing time on gamedays. Smart has even alluded to doing everything they could to keep Bennett off the field, but he stayed confident in himself.
“When some people or outside people say ‘confidence in yourself,’ I’ve got confidence in myself, but it’s more so confidence in myself to do a job for this team. It’s less so confidence of ‘I’m as good a quarterback as anybody,'” Bennett said. “I don’t think about it in the way of ‘I’m the best quarterback,’ because there are so many different variables and different offenses and things you’re asked to do. There are so many different variables.”
The 5'11 190 pound quarterback received some gameday reps in 2019, but mainly when the games were already out of hand. He was finally named the starter in 2020 and led the team to four wins and one loss before injuring his shoulder in the Florida game. After JT Daniels took over and finished out the game, Smart wanted to have a talk with Bennett.
“I could see it,” Bennett said. “I really didn’t understand it in the moment. I was like, ‘Why do you got to talk to me? I mean, I know I’m benched.’ But he came in. He was very nice and was just, ‘Hey, we’re going to give it a go with JT this week and see how this goes.’ And then obviously, the freaking joker went and threw for 400.’ And I was like, alright dude. You couldn’t give me a shot? But he went and threw for 400. And I was like, ‘Well, that’s what happens.’ But it was all very - at that moment, I could feel it.”
Daniels started the first game of the season in 2021 against Clemson, but came out of the game with an injury of his own. In game two Bennett threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns in a 56-7 victory over UAB, but it wasn't enough to jump Daniels for the starting job. The former walk-on only had three pass attempts in the third week of the season against South Carolina, but had to take over the Vanderbilt game after another injury to Daniels. He hasn't looked back since. Bennett has a 27-3 record as the starting quarterback at Georgia and led the Bulldogs to their first national championship in 40 years.
Just when you think someone has reached the pinnacle of achievement in college football, Bennett has taken it a step further. He has thrown for 3,425 yards and 20 touchdowns, while also rushing for seven more touchdowns. Georgia is the odds on favorite to win the national championship again, and Bennett has achieved something he never dreamed of, a second pinnacle in his career as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
While his confidence in his abilities guided Bennett to the highest individual achievement as a college football player, his humbleness allowed him to share the credit with his teammates and coaches.
“I don’t even know what to think right now. We have a lot of good players who make me look good. It’s special. This honor is all about my teammates and this team. I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the team that we have. This honor is for them. I understand what Coach Smart means when he says that success comes to those who don’t look for it or are too busy working to look for it. I have never thought about the Heisman.”
“I just wanted to play quarterback at Georgia. I just wanted to play football. I’m thinking of the players and people who have been in this with me. Regardless of who wins, it’s a huge honor to be in this group. The wideouts, tight ends, running backs, offensive line, defense, coaches - I wouldn’t have this opportunity without them so a ton of gratitude for them.”
A weekend like this is what dreams are made of. The highest achievement in the land of college football. Only four players a year receive this honor, and Stetson Fleming Bennett IV is and will always be in the Heisman finalists club. He is a part of college football history. This is something he will be able to share with his coaches and teammates, his fellow finalists, former and future finalists, the state of Georgia, and Pierce County. He'll spend Christmas with his family as one of the top four players in the nation. He'll spend future Christmases showing his children and grandchildren pictures and videos of this prestigious accomplishment. It's something he never dreamed of.
“I was telling these guys earlier, no I didn’t,” Bennett said when asked if he ever dreamed of this moment. “I don’t know if that was because I’m from South Georgia, I went to a 3-A, I walked on at UGA, you know all these stories. I don’t know if I could grasp that I would be in a position to do so. Or I think it’s more a huge honor and it’s very important, but to me in the moment I was always, ‘I’m trying to keep my job. I’m trying to win this game on Saturday. I’ve got to do all this stuff.’ It’s tough to worry about more than just that because that’s tough to do. So probably a mixture.”
As big of a moment as this is, Bennett still doesn't see himself any different than he did in high school.
“I still see the same kid. He’s pretty stubborn, he needs a haircut, but he knew that then and he got here,” Bennett said. “People ask me a lot, ‘Did you ever see yourself here in this situation? Could you ever imagine?’ I’m like, ‘No, not really,’ but I also never really thought about it.”
He's certainly thinking about it now, as is every doubter he's ever had.
Photo Credit: The Heisman Trophy Trust
There are no comments to display.