Stetson Bennett Was Close To Playing QB For Billy Napier Until Georgia Called Him At The Last Minute

There are certain moments in your life where things just seem to add up, especially when you take a different route to get there. There was a moment in time where Billy Napier almost had Stetson Bennett as his quarterback at Louisiana and maybe the story at Georgia wouldn’t have involved the beloved former walk-on.

Having to make a tough decision about playing time, Bennett decided to transfer in 2018 to Jones County Community College in Mississippi, hoping to make a name for himself and earn an opportunity to be a starting quarterback. After throwing for 1,840 yards and 16 touchdowns during his season at the small town junior college, Bennett started receiving calls from a few coaches around the country, including Billy Napier. At the time, Napier was the coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, looking for a quarterback to compete for the starting job.

So as the recruiting process continued on, Bennett had found a spot to continue his college career, not really thinking Georgia would be an option, especially with the talented quarterback room already established. All the signs were pointing towards Bennett heading south to Lafayette, at least that’s what he was thinking until a call came in on the morning he was about to sign with Louisiana.

Asked about his intentions to play for Coach Napier, Bennett said that it was one phone call that changed his life trajectory.

“I did, I woke up that morning planning on signing there (Louisiana). But, I got a phone call from the University of Georgia.”

If it weren’t for Kirby Smart keeping an open line of communication with Bennett, the National Championship winning quarterback would’ve been playing for the coach that just took over at Florida. That one phone call from the Georgia staff gave Stetson a second chance at proving he could be the guy after Justin Fields decided to leave Athens in December of that year. It was December 19th, which ended up being the first day of the early signing period.

Having to make the decision on returning to Georgia for a chance at redemption or take Billy Napier up on his offer to play for Louisiana, it came down to unfinished business at a school he dreamt of playing for, even if that meant starting over in Athens and walking back into a spot where starting would be a battle only some players have the mental strength for.

“It was a big decision so I had to talk to my parents, coaches and then I decided later in the day,” Bennett discussed when meeting with Georgia media members after signing in 2019. “I really didn’t go about my business the way I should have the first time I was here, working every day, learning the playbook well enough. Looking back, I thought I was good enough to play here talent-wise, but I didn’t really do enough myself to be as good as I could be. I realized that and the fact that this was home.”

The respect for Coach Napier has never diminished though they never got a chance to work together. Now at Florida, Stetson will have the opportunity to play against his former potential coach and he praised the Gators coach and assistants for how they handled it all.

“Coach Napier is a great guy. He’s got Coach Peagler down there who is on the staff now and he was our scout team head coach my freshman year (Georgia). He had this thing where, we tried to make coach Smart so mad. He’d make this highlight reel everyday after practice called ‘Curb Stomp’, either he’d want us to repeat a play because we beat the defense or he’s slamming his hat on the grass, just getting mad. We took pride in that.

“So, I think Coach Napier is a really good coach, just a great guy,” Bennett added. “I enjoyed all the time we had talking.”

Knowing how hard Bennett worked to gain this spot at Georgia, Billy Napier couldn’t have been any prouder to see the young man flourish. When asked about Bennett at SEC Media Days, Napier said it was great to see him leading the Bulldogs.

“I think Stetson, it’s pretty awesome to turn the TV on and see that guy playing quarterback for the Dawgs. He committed to University of Louisiana. Got a chance to go back and play. Had the confidence. You think about his character, his confidence and his abilities. Fantastic player and a great leader. Certainly I can see why Georgia took him.”

Who knows how life turns out sometimes, but there was a moment in time where Stetson Bennett was going to play for Billy Napier. Sometimes things workout for the best, which every Georgia fan, player or coach can attest to after last season’s national championship.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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