Stetson Bennett has accumulated many different monikers during his time in Athens. Walk-on, back-up, starting quarterback, SEC champion and national champion just to name a few.
You can now add Heisman Trophy finalist to the list, as Bennett was one of four finalists for college football’s most prestigious individual award.
Joining Bennett will be USC quarterback Caleb Williams, TCU quarterback Max Duggan and Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud.
Georgia has not had a finalist in New York for the Heisman Trophy since Garrison Hearst did it back in 1992. Twice in program history has Georgia had a player win the Heisman Trophy, with Herschel Walker winning in 1982 and Frank Sinkwich doing so in 1942.
Bennett led Georgia to a 13-0 record this season, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 3,425 yards. He also ran for seven touchdowns as well, while leading Georgia to its first SEC championship since 2017 and the No. 1 overall ranking.
After Saturday’s 50-30 win over LSU, Georgia coach Kirby Smart made his case for why Bennett was worthy of such recognition.
“I think it’s one of those things, this guy’s 23 of 29 in the second half, I mean, he didn’t get to do a whole lot in the second half, so I don’t know what he was in the first half,” Smart said. “He’s played really well.
“I had several people come up to me and say they thought he played the best game of his career tonight. He played really good.”
Related: Heisman finalist or not, Stetson Bennett celebrates leading Georgia football to SEC championship
Bennett was more modest in his comments when discussing the game.
“I was familiar with the plays. We repped them a lot during the week, during the season,” Bennett said. “We had executed them during the week. When it’s the SEC Championship, you kind of got to play confident. If you don’t, then they’re going to beat you.
“I’ve got good players around me. Shoot, I’m not that bad at football either. We got a good team.”
Bennett first arrived at Georgia as a walk-on in 2017, first rising to prominence for his role in replicating Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield as Georgia readied for the Rose Bowl. He transferred to Jones College in Mississippi in order to earn a scholarship offer.
The last Heisman Trophy finalist that was a walk-on was Mayfield.
Justin Fields entered the transfer portal, Bennett got that opportunity and re-joined the team as a member of the 2019 signing class after nearly going to Louisiana-Lafayette. He backed up Jake Fromm for the 2019 season and began preseason practices for the 2020 season as the No. 4 quarterback on Georgia’s depth chart.
But Bennett kept working and came in during the first half of Georgia’s season-opener against Arkansas to lead the Bulldogs to a win. He would start for the next five games for Georgia, but he was ultimately benched after suffering in an injury in a loss to Florida.
Bennett would not start again until the second game of the 2021 season, when he replaced an injured JT Daniels. He threw five touchdowns against UAB in a winning effort. After Daniels picked up an injury against Vanderbilt, Bennett took up starting duties once again and would not relinquish them.
Bennett would go on to lead Georgia to a national championship last season, the school’s first since 1980. He returned to Georgia using his sixth year of eligibility thanks to the NCAA’s COVID-19 policy.
While Bennett’s numbers do not match up to some of his fellow finalists in terms of touchdowns, the Bulldogs rank third in the country in rushing touchdowns.
Bennett has also been at his best against top-tier competition. Against teams ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings, Bennett threw 13 touchdowns to two interceptions in wins over Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State. He also ran for four touchdowns in those wins while throwing for an average of 294 yards and completing 73 percent of his passes.
As a starting quarterback, Bennett is 27-3 as a starter for the Bulldogs. He is also a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top player who began their career as a walk-on.
Bennett is from Blackshear, Ga., and played at Pierce County High School. Bennett’s younger brother Luke is a freshman wide receiver on the team.
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