NFL Draft challenges bring out the ‘old’ Stetson Bennett at Georgia Football Pro Day
ATHENS — It seemed the “old” Stetson Bennett was back at Georgia on Wednesday, his mind back into the football groove with the 2023 NFL Draft fast approaching.
There was no talk of back-to-back championships, all-time greatness or wanting or needing to prove anything to the coaches, fans or media who doubted him or his team.
“On the field there is so much going on, other stuff, (but) here, it’s routes on air. How does the ball look coming out of his hand? Anticipation, different kinds of routes — it’s strictly physical.”
Bennett’s take on this part of the NFL Draft evaluation process is in line with the Georgia fans who point out he beat all of the projected first-round NFL quarterback picks head-to-head.
Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and even Hendon Hooker — Bennett and the Bulldogs beat them all.
But how much of it was Bennett, and how much of it was on account of his supporting cast? The same question could be asked -- and is asked -- of every other player at every other position on the NFL Draft boards.
It’s something NFL teams have to figure out each year.
Bennett doesn’t take it personal, and he sounded confident enough in his own abilities on Wednesday to ask only for another chance.
“At the end of the day, when you boil it down, it’s just, ‘Who is the best football player? " Bennett said.
“People get caught up in this combine stuff, but football started in August, that’s when we play football,” Bennett said. “So it’s proving every day that you can be consistent so the coaches can trust you, and then it’s being good enough to play.”
Bennett didn’t seem comfortable propped up on a platform looking down at people during his press conference at the NFL Combine earlier this month.
But at field level, toe-to-toe and at eye level with Georgia media who have followed his career, Bennett was back to his old self.
Bennett came across like an NFL prospect who has figured out what he’s up against.
And, while Bennett maintains the sort of confidence that was needed two win back-to-back CFP Championships at Georgia, it’s clear he has learned how to moderate it.
That’s what the “old” Bennett did when he was backing up Jake Fromm and J.T. Daniels, and even after he began making the most of his early opportunities to take over the starting role.
Bennett has always been honest to a fault when assessing his play and situations after games, and he is consistently among the most critical of his own performances after games.
That self awareness was part of what enabled Bennett to make the climb into collegiate football stardom.
And now the reset button has been pushed.
Bennett acknowledged that on Wednesday when asked to put where he’s at now in the NFL process into context of his unique journey.
It’s been well-documented: From walk-on, to JUCO transfer, to Georgia backup, to UGA fourth-stringer, to starter, to national champion, to possible transfer, and then back to national champion again.
The Stetson Bennett story — or whatever Netflix or Hollywood production that comes out of it — can wait.
Of course, there have been some bizarre twists of late, from awkward moments around the national championship parade and ceremony, to his regrettable early morning arrest in Dallas.
NFL teams took note, of course, and Bennett indicated on Wednesday that he was accountable in his interviews with the teams.
“They ask a lot of different questions, but I think more than anything, it’s how you answer it,” Bennett said, asked about his NFL interviews. “Usually, they know anything you’re about to tell them.
“Do you tell the truth? Are you honest? Are you up front, (or) do you try to hide anything? Who are you? Just little things like that.”
More parts of the process, Bennett understands, and he has done his best to take it all in stride.
“I try to be myself, there’s nothing to hide from, be consistent in it,” Bennett said. “When you do that, there’s no anxiousness or anything like that. That’s what it is, that’s what happened, that’s who I am, and let’s go play football.”
Bennett knows what he can offer a team, and the NFL franchises have a very good idea, too.
“I can throw it well, I can run, I’m pretty smart,” Bennett said. “We’ll see.”
Nothing promised, nothing owed and nothing will be taken for granted or given
It’s just like old times for Stetson Bennett, and based on Wednesday’s interview in the UGA practice facility, the “old” Stetson is back to tackle the challenge just in time.
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