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1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart celebrates with defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) and quarterback Stetson Bennett, right, after their 33-18 win against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022. Curtis Compton /

Kelee Ringo, Stetson Bennett and life for Georgia football after winning National Championship

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Georgia football players discuss moving on from National Championship

In his first press conference of the spring, Georgia coach Kirby Smart made it clear there would be no title defense for the 2022 Georgia football. The Bulldogs lost too much from the 2021 team to adequately say they were defending a championship from the previous season.

Smart wanted to make it clear the 2022 team would be judged on its own merits. Like every season at Georgia, the goal is to win a National Championship, not reminisce about the previous title.

“When we came back and went to work for those six weeks, that’s -- we’ve put that to the side. We’re not communicating, talking about that,” Smart said. “We start fresh just like we did when we lost to Texas in a bowl game. We start completely new.”

For Stetson Bennett, he could have had the 33-18 win over Alabama be his final game as a Bulldog. The 2020 and 2021 seasons were trying for Bennett, bouncing between the bench and starting role at Georgia. He had discussions with the Georgia coaching staff about coming back and admits he didn’t like everything he was told.

Bennett in speaking to reporters this week made it clear. He loves playing football and he loves doing so at the University of Georgia. Sure going out on top would be nice, but there’s something even better out there in his mind.

“It’s about the daily grind, the daily competition … where do we want to be next week. Where do we want to be tomorrow? It’s those little goals,” Bennett said. “Shoot, why does anybody who’s ever won something do it again? Because it’s cool. So, let’s go do it again.

“Let’s see if we’ve got what it takes.”

Related: Stetson Bennett goes into detail about his decision to return to Georgia for 2022 season

So one can’t help but wonder what that title meant to the man who had the most iconic play in said game in Kelee Ringo. He who made the game-clinching interception, which was returned for a touchdown.

Smart cautioned against saying that was the game-winning play, and he’s certainly right. Football games can never be boiled down to one play. But in snarring a Bryce Young pass and returning it for a touchdown, Ringo created a play that will be broadcast at Sanford Stadium for generations to come.

“It’s pretty humbling honestly,” Ringo said of the play. “Yes, that was a big play in a big situation, but I feel like, ‘Man, what’s next.’ I’ve seen plenty of players do big things in big situations and they’re now on top of the mountain, so I feel like continuing to stay consistent and just continuing to do things that will help my team win, that’ll set me off straight.”

Like Bennett, more is going to be asked of Ringo this season. He’s the veteran in the cornerback room, as Derion Kendrick is off to the NFL and three other Bulldogs transfered away.

It’s a rapid ascent for a player who admits he did not know what he was doing at this point last spring.

If there is one tangible benefit for Ringo, both he and Smart recognize how much confidence that has given the redshirt sophomore. It’s an issue Ringo battled with last season, and even at times in the championship game.

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