INDIANAPOLIS — Stetson Bennett has etched his place in Georgia football folklore regardless of how the CFP Championship Game turns out.
Of course, it’s a much better story if the former walk-on, junior college player and fourth-string quarterback takes down mighty Alabama on college football’s biggest stage at Lucas Oil Stadium at 8 p.m. on Monday.
It would be such a good story, in fact, that Bennett would be worthy of a movie (move over Rudy!), or at the very least, an ESPN 30-for-30.
All-American nose tackle Jordan Davis will forever be remembered as the face of this season’s team after becoming the first player in SEC history to win the Outland Trophy and Bednarik Award, but Bennett will never be forgotten.
“Stetson is a resilient kid; he went from Rose Bowl scout team QB coming in, and then just grinding, working,” Davis said. “He’s an extremely hard worker. Every time I see Stetson he’s either learning up on something or on his flip phone.”
Bennett quarterbacked a No. 1-ranked Georgia team for eight weeks this season, the longest stretch in program history, en route to the College Football Playoffs.
The 23-year-old, fifth-year senior from Blackshear, Ga. (population, 3,506) showed his resiliency in the postseason with an Orange Bowl MVP performance last week after a disappointing, two-interception performance in the SEC Championship Game loss.
But there’s more than just football to Bennett’s curious underdog story.
It’s that Bennett is an independent thinker, different to the extent of purchasing a flip phone last summer to become more productive by avoiding unnecessary distractions.
“I had a bunch of school coming up the next semester (and) I had football, I was, like, I spend, whatever, an hour on my smartphone a day doing what? Doing nothing, nothing that’s going to help me,” Bennett said during a CFP Zoom call in Indianapolis in the days leading up to the title game.
“I’ve thought about it before. I’ve thought about it for years. And I was like, well, I’ve got all this stuff to do, all this important stuff. Let’s try not to let anything get in the way of that focus and just go get a flip phone.”
Bennett’s teammates loved it, just as they appreciate his efforts in practice and the road he traveled to reach the top.
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Georgia football team captain Jamaree Salyer said Bennett is a player he will tell his kids about one day.
“Just look at his story; Stet has gone through just about everything a guy could go through that comes to college,” Salyer said after Bennett tied a school mark with 5 TD passes in a 56-7 win over UAB. “He’s been around five years, I think he went to junior college, here for a year, and then he left, then he came back.
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“Won a starting job, lost a starting job, been on the scout team, won big games …. Stet has lived the life of a college athlete to the fullest.”
Indeed, and in that one afternoon game against the Blazers, Bennett experienced a spectrum of fan reactions, booed by misguided fans during the introductions, celebrated by all of DawgNation by day’s end.
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Now, on the verge of a performance that will define him in the eyes of Georgia football fans for eternity, Bennett is maintaining his flip phone mentality and keeping things simple.