From the bench to the mountaintop, Stetson Bennett knows he earned Heisman Trophy invite

Georgia football-Stetson Bennett-Heisman Trophy
Stetson Bennett poses with the Heisman Trophy ahead of Saturday's ceremony (Connor Riley/DawgNation).

NEW YORK — Stetson Bennett’s past week has taken him all over the country. Last Saturday, he was winning MVP honors in the SEC championship game. On Monday, he took home the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s top player who began their career as a walk-on.

Friday saw him pose for pictures with the Heisman Trophy, the top individual honor in the sport. He did so along fellow finalists Caleb Williams, CJ Stroud and Max Duggan.

It’s a lot to take in for one player. Much less for Georgia’s first Heisman Trophy finalist in 30 years who began his career as a walk-on.

“I’m from South Georgia, I went to a 3-A, I walked on at UGA, you know all these stories,” Bennett said. “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.’”

Related: Stetson Bennett weighs in on Hendon Hooker Heisman Trophy backlash: ‘I didn’t make that call’

Bennett has come a long way since walking on prior to the start of the 2017 season. He’s gone from scout teamer to scholarship player to fourth-stinger to starter. Then to the bench for JT Daniels, only to then be thrust back into the starting role.

This has been the first season of his long college career where Bennett has had some sort of quarterback controversy. Not coincidently, he’s had his best season. He’s got 27 touchdowns to this point, proving to be a weapon through the air and on the ground. He’s got Georgia back in the College Football Playoff, this time doing so as the No. 1 seed.

Bennett’s continued to get better throughout his college career. So much so that he’s clearly a deserving finalist this week.

“There has been more asked of me this year which has been fun for me. I enjoy it a lot,” Bennett said. “I think that comes from me earning it. Me being good enough to do that, right. I don’t think I necessarily was last year. Some spots, but not all the time. That also goes to show how much work our entire offensive team put in this offseason as well as Monk and the other position coaches.”

The smile Bennett displayed on Friday while posing for photos masks the scars he’s occurred in getting to New York. He’s been told repeatedly he’s not good enough, both by the Georgia fan base and Georgia coaching staff.

Bennett went into greater detail about being benched in the 2020 season for Daniels. He had gotten hurt in the Florida game but he also knew he hadn’t been playing well enough for a while.

If Friday was the apex of his individual career, that benching was the nadir.

“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 [Kirby] came in. He was very nice and was just [saying], ‘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.”

Related: Emotional acceptance speech perfectly sums Georgia football quarterback Stetson Bennett

Of course, individual awards aren’t what makes Bennett the happiest. He was crying in the arms of a teammate after Kelee Ringo’s game-sealing interception in the national championship game last season.

Winning, as a team, has always been the most important thing to Bennett. Team success is undeniably a big reason Bennett is New York, as he is the quarterback of the top team in the country. Whether you like it or not, that is going to get you a few votes in the Heisman Trophy voting.

But Bennett isn’t just along for the ride. More so this season, he’s been orchestrating the show. It’s why he knows, despite the long list of doubters, he belongs in New York.

“It means we had a really good team,” Bennett said .”It means a lot of people did a lot of things so I could play well.”

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