Kirby Smart: Georgia QB Stetson Bennett ‘a little bit better’ than Notre Dame’s Rudy

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) hit a home run in batting practice before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for Bulldogs’ game against Albany at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Kirby Smart compared returning Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett to former Notre Dame walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger and NFL star Kyler Murray in the same Sirius XM radio show earlier this week.

Those who know Bennett’s story can appreciate how it all makes sense.

Smart, entering his seventh year as Georgia’s head coach, played along with the question.

“Well, he was a little bit better than Rudy, I’ll say that,” Smart said. “He was a recruited walk-on, no offense to Rudy. I’ve watched that movie several times.”

Bennett the Offensive MVP of Georgia’s 33-18 win over Alabama in the national title game, overcoming five sacks and a fumble to complete 17 of 26 passes for 2 touchdowns.

RELATED: Kirby sees similarities between Stetson Bennett and Heisman winner Bryce Young

Beating the odds is nothing new for Bennett, who has found success despite his humbling beginnings and relatively small size at the position.

Smart made his admiration for Bennett clear last season, promoting him for the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the most outstanding college player who began his career as a walk-on.

“I’m so proud of what he’s been through, for a young man that was a 3 (third-teamer) coming out of spring, a 3 going into fall camp, a 3 coming out of fall camp,” Smart said.

“What does it say about his character that he stuck around and he kept working to get better? That’s what you’re supposed to do in life, overcome hurdles and obstacles and he’s done that.”

RELATED: Georgia 2022 offense expected to funnel through Stetson Bennett

Indeed, it didn’t matter to Smart that no other SEC program offered Bennett a scholarship coming out of high school or when he was leaving junior college following the 2018 season.

The Georgia head coach knows what he sees in Bennett, who enters spring drills the clear-cut No. 1 on the depth chart ahead of third-year quarterback Carson Beck, a former Florida Mr. Football and Alabama commit, and 5-star recruit and former Oklahoma commit Brock Vandagriff.

RELATED: Kirby’s big challenge, Georgia 13th in SEC in returning production

“(Bennett) was a really good athlete and he’s from South Georgia,” said Smart, who like Bennett was once considered an undersized high school prospect before starring at Georgia as an All-SEC safety.

“He’s a really good quarterback. He just wasn’t very big. And more and more in football, the pocket is moving,” he said. “You’re seeing the Kyler Murray’s and you’re seeing these guys be successful. And we watched him in high school and said this man is a really good football player and loved to have him.”

Smart revealed Bennett transferred to junior college after his first year at Georgia when incoming freshman Justin Fields passed him on the depth chart to back up then-starter Jake Fromm.

RELATED: How Trevor Lawrence’s early success at Clemson affected Justin Fields at UGA

“So he did have a brief stay where he left because he wasn’t number two,” Smart said in the interview.

“He left and went to junior college and I told him to he would get more experience and he would get more offers by going to junior college. And it worked out great for him to come back to Georgia. He’s a tremendous kid.”

Smart said Bennett’s athleticism was such at Pierce County High School that the Bulldogs’ felt he could have lined up as a wideout.

“We thought he might even be a receiver because of his athleticism,” Smart said. “And he loved Georgia and he wanted to be at Georgia and we brought him in on visits. We knew he was very important.”

The 24-year-old Bennett has made it clear he’s not interested in any fanfare.

“Just throwing routes when all these cameras are gone, and these boys will learn how to get better at football,” Bennett said after receiving the key to his hometown of Blackshear and appearing in a parade.

RELATED: Stetson Bennett ready to lead Georgia football into the future

“I didn’t have an offseason last year with the guys, and this year I will, so it’s exciting.”

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