Stetson Bennett IV: The ‘poor dirt farm boy’ story about Arkansas you haven’t heard
The real story here, as his first cousin once removed put it, is really about the roots of some poor dirt farm boys. Have you read that story about Stetson Bennett IV yet?
Do you know why it was so special to see him get to do what he did in Arkansas on Saturday night? Vi Bennett said as much in a social media post about her cousin on Saturday night.
It just might take a minute for even a fast-moving chronicle to get there, but the journey matters. That’s because Georgia has always allowed Bennett a chance to dream. He’s seen the Bulldogs play about 115 times now. At least.
The book on Bennett keeps finding chapter after chapter. Even when every door seems to close for the 5-foot-11 quarterback. Those that know and love “Stet” still likely doubt if anybody wants to read about a short QB.
They did after Saturday night.
It was triggered by a young man who grew up dreaming of pulling out wins in Sanford Stadium. The Bennett family has filled the seats of their season tickets since 1996.
We can recall a story shared about how Richard LeCounte III sat in Kirby Smart’s office years ago. He stumped for Bennett to be added to the program in his class, too. He’d dueled with the kid from Pierce County and knew what he could do.
“Stet” hung 369 yards on LeCounte’s team in their senior year.
“That would be huge for us to get him at Georgia,” LeCounte said way back in December of 2016. “Huge. You know why? Because I wouldn’t want to play against him if he was the quarterback on the other team coming in to face Georgia.”
It was fitting to see those two linked as the guys who pulled out that win in Fayetteville. Those two were the player representatives to the media after that comeback win.
But the LeCounte story on Stet also sits three or four times removed from the “just feels right” satisfying story with Bennett.
It is not Jamie Newman opting out. Or JT Daniels waiting on the good word with the knee. This isn’t even D’Wan Mathis looking like he just played (and started) his first college game on the road in the SEC. Which he did.
But there are little things that need to show up here.
Bennett left Georgia after the spring game in 2018. He was smart enough to know his dream to wrestle the reins of the offense away from both Jake Fromm and Justin Fields was not going to fly.
Walk-ons just don’t do that. Not even in a Disney script.
This quote from Bennett in May of 2018 validates why.
“The dream is to play,” Bennett said. “It was cool being at Georgia. I loved sharing those moments at Georgia last year but the dream is to play. It just wasn’t the same growing up as a boy who wanted to play at Georgia if you are not out there. That’s the thing. It was cool. I would love to be the starting quarterback at the University of Georgia. But just being there and being on the team, that’s not good enough for me.”
“I’m going to go play somewhere,” Bennett said. “I think that’s evolved to more of the dream than just being somewhere at a place because you grew up loving it. I think now the dream is to go play and go win championships somewhere. That’s what I feel like. I am going to go chase that dream now.”
He was older than Fromm and Fields back then. But that was a chase for another zip code. No matter how many nice things LeCounte and Kirby Smart and Roquan Smith and Mel Tucker said.
Rerouted: That dream led “The Mailman” to a junior college
We’ll ask if you’ve made it this far to hang a bit longer. Got to squeeze three chapters into one. Most of us have heard at least one story about a South Georgia boy made good by now.
Even if he is the son of two pharmacists and no longer a dirt poor farm boy. He was dubbed “The MailMan” in high school because he traveled more than 4,000 miles going to prospect camps hoping to be seen.
He wore a U.S. Postal Service cap, but that name stuck because he was always getting the ball out in time.
But that’s the “MailMan” stories for those who didn’t know him firsts before all those “Opening” camps.
His center at Pierce County High School gave him that hat. His father was the Mayor of a small town in South Georgia.
He wore it to the camp and former Georgia commit and current Seattle Seahawk Deejay Dallas put that picture flush left on Instagram and called him either “The MailMan” or “The Postman” the first time.
It stuck after that.
His strengths have always been accuracy, timing and mobility. Bennett was rated a 2-star recruit of high school. He passed up a few scholarship opportunities in order to walk-on at UGA. He had full rides to go play at Mercer, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and The Ivy League, too.
Bennett was a scout team star at Georgia during the 2017 season but knew he was not getting by Fromm and Fields.
He tried his hand at a Mississippi junior college. It was a little hit-or-miss.
Bennett finished the 2018 season at Jones leading the program to a 10-2 record. He completed 145 of his 259 passes for 1840 yards with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That was good for a 56 percent completion rate.
Those Mississippi junior colleges have a great reputation as springboards for careers. But most might not know that those schools are allowed so many out-of-state signees. Those that exhaust those limits on offensive linemen wind up looking at the wrong side of the scoreboard. That knowledge there adds a little to that oft-putting JUCO stat line.
Those scholarships go to the players who either harass the quarterbacks or make them look good. Not the ones who will give them time to think in a not-so-clean pocket.
But he still found scholarship offers to play at Georgia and Louisana-Lafayette coming out of the Jones County Community College.
When Fields left Georgia, it created a void for quarterbacks. Specifically in the short term. Ole Miss sophomore John Rhys Plumlee was still committed, but could not enroll early. Smart needed someone who could join Mathis behind Fromm for spring practice in 2019. Bennett already knew the offense.
The chance to come home was too hard to resist. He came back. With the belief that he could push Fromm as a clear backup. It seemed like Fromm would only have one more season. Bennett scored a 30 on his ACT in high school. It has a decision made maybe with equal parts head and heart.
But things have changed a lot since December of 2018.
Fromm is in the NFL. Newman is gone. Daniels waits on a clearance. Mathis needs more game reps that may be hard to come by on a viable title contender amid perhaps the toughest schedule in UGA history.
This brings us to the real good stuff about a 27-point win authored by an out-of-town bandit named Bennett in Fayetteville.
Richard “Buddy” Bennett and a you-don’t-say story
When the name Stetson Bennett IV pops up, it creates the wrong impression. The thought of a Southern farm and property lines that go farther than the eye can see.
The story here is about poor dirt farm boys and a clear “you don’t say” connection to a Georgia victory against the University of Arkansas.
His grandfather coached defensive backs for Frank Broyles at Arkansas in 1971 and 1972. Of all things.
He was also the secondary coach on Bill Battle’s Tennessee staff in 1970. Google it. “Bennett’s Bandits” was a thing back in his day.
It made pulling out a win at Arkansas a very special place to do it.
“Just thankful the Lord gave him the opportunity to show the world how much heart and hard work matter,” his father Stetson Bennett III said on Saturday night. “If you were to measure his heart, it would be over six feet.”
But there’s one more very good part. Probably the best part.
His grandfather is the late Richard “Buddy” Bennett. That’s what it says in the Arkansas and Tennessee football media guides. Not Stetson Bennett Jr.
Vi Bennett explained why on Facebook on Saturday night. Because so many people had asked.
Her father was Stetson Bennett Jr, but she was the youngest of his three girls. She wrote that when it was clear her “Mama and Daddy” would have no more children, her father was asked by her uncle if his next son could be named Stetson Bennett III.
Because that is what salt-of-the-earth folks from South Georgia do. Especially when they want a name to carry on to the next generation.
“The Bennett family owes so much to the opportunities the game of football has given to us,” Vi Bennett wrote. “In the last 40s and 50s, poor dirt farm boys had very few chances to advance their education beyond high school (if that) unless you could play football.”
“Today one of the progenies of those poor dirt farmers gave back to that game that gave the Bennett family so much. Stetson Bennett IV, you have made us proud and I am honored to call you my cousin.”
It was not the brain surgery comeback Hollywood script, but that Bennett chapter still just feels right in its own way.
Rewinding Georgia 37, Arkansas 10
The stories so far on DawgNation.com
- What social media is saying about Georgia’s 37-10 win
- Report card: Grading Georgia’s 27-point win at Arkansas
- ESPN College Gameday comes to Athens for Auburn-Georgia Top 10 showdown
- Georgia football defense will need to ‘build the rest of our team up and grow our team’
- Kirby Smart says his team needs work after the 27-point Arkansas win
- Fan feedback: The jury is still out for QB1 at Georgia
- Gameball: Stetson Bennett IV delivers, bails out Bulldogs
- Instant observation from Georgia’s 37-10 win at Arkansas
- RECAP: Georgia shakes off slow start, cooks Razorbacks late
- Georgia QB D’Wan Mathis sees storybook first start interrupted at Arkansas
- What social media is saying about Georgia’s tepid start at Arkansas