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LOS ANGELES– Confetti poured down from the sky, along with the rain that somehow made its way into SoFi Stadium. Just as Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was taking the stage, he yelled for his quarterback Stetson Bennett, the guy who had been told years ago that he wasn’t good enough to get here.
As the pair made their way to the podium to raise the college football playoff trophy, an embrace between the two summed up almost five years of a partnership. It was never easy, especially in the early days of Bennett returning to Georgia, after leaving for a year. The never ending doubt from coaches of whether Stetson could lead his team to these heights.
Let’s be honest, Bennett was an afterthought when he arrived back on campus. But, as players stormed the field and lit up every cigar they could find, Stetson and his head coach embraced, for what felt like ten minutes. It was the end to a story that fans thought would never happen, including just about every offensive coach on the Georgia staff.
There’s something to be said about a young man who might not have all the intangibles that a first-round draft pick might have, but is still able to lead his team to consecutive titles. It’s not always about who has the bigger arm or better frame, sometimes it comes down to heart, which Bennett has demonstrated over the past few years.
Stetson Bennett’s Decision To Play For A Second Championship
There was an opportunity for Stetson Bennett to take his 2021 championship and live on forever in the hearts of Georgia fans as the guy who helped break the streak. No, it wasn’t Jake Fromm, Justin Fields, JT Daniels or the long list of quarterbacks who’ve stepped foot on the Georgia campus in the last fifty years. It was the kid from Georgia who always wanted to be a Bulldog, no matter what the pundits said.
So when Stetson walked into Kirby Smart’s office three days after helping his team break their national championship drought in Indianapolis, he wondered why folks thought he should just leave Athens with one title.
“I’m going to tell you another important date was about three days from right now last year when he came in my office and he said, I’m trying to decide if I’m going to come back or ride off in the wind. I don’t understand everybody’s telling me I should just ride off into the sunset be the legendary quarterback who won a national title. He said, that’s just not who I am I am.
“He’s, like, I don’t get it. Why should I do that when I have an opportunity to play again?,” Kirby Smart said about Stetson’s decision. “Why don’t we go win it again? And I’m kind of thinking, well, that would be nice but we lost 15 draft picks. Might not be that easy this time.”
More than anything, Stetson Bennett wanted to prove that his first championship wasn’t a fluke. After all, the defense that the Bulldogs had in 2021 was dominant, which is putting it nicely. So when he finally made the decision to return, Kirby Smart heard conviction in his voice, not wanting to pass up the opportunity to just play football at Georgia.
“He had full conviction that he wanted to come back and go opposite of the mainstream,” Kirby Smart said of Bennett’s thinking. “Like, all he wanted to do — he was here, I think, a year with Jake (Fromm), and he knew Jake had left early. He brought it up to me and he said, I want to go play. I want to go play football and prove to people this is no fluke. We can do this,”
The Return To Los Angeles, With A Hollywood Ending
In 2017, Stetson Bennett first started writing his script as he mimicked Baker Mayfield in practice as Georgia prepared for Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. He was making plays against the first-team Georgia defense, keeping them humbled as the Bulldogs played in the semifinal. It was three years later that Bennett led his team to a comeback win against Arkansas, only to be sent back to the bench.
It was one year later in 2021, when JT Daniels couldn’t go, that Bennett took the starting job and never gave it back. Now, two full seasons later, Stetson Bennett finishes his Georgia career 26-1 as a starter and led his team to a perfect 15-0 record this season.
He’s won an SEC Championship and two National Titles as a starer. Bennett’s also thrown for the most passing yards in a single season in Georgia history, breaking Aaron Murray’s record after throwing for 121 yards in the first quarter. Oh, Bennett also became the first Georgia quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
He will be remembered as a legend by Bulldog fans, while looked upon as an inspiration for others. One day he’ll surely have a statue built of him somewhere in Georgia. But none of those accolades will mean as much to Stetson as just being able to play football at the school he loved. Somewhere down the line he’ll have some fantastic memories to reminisce on with former teammates and coaches, no doubt having a few laughs over how it all went down.
A Script Few Would Believe
If you would’ve told Stetson Bennett in 2017 that he’d leave Georgia with two national titles, an SEC ring, multiple records broken and a legacy that will live on forever, he most likely would’ve called you crazy.
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect Hollywood ending? I imagine as Stetson and Kirby get on a plane to head to Athens today, there’s a producer somewhere already pitching this movie idea.
The legacy of Stetson Bennett started in Los Angeles, and he wrote the final chapter in that same city. I can’t imagine some of the best writers in this town coming up with something better than that.