Stetson Bennett was never a big-game quarterback…until he was

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) Mandatory Credit: Joshua Bickel-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) Mandatory Credit: Joshua Bickel-USA TODAY Sports /

Stetson Bennett, you just led the Georgia Bulldogs to their first national championship since 1980. What are you going to do now?

“I think I’ll tell all the doubters and haters what they can do with their opinions”

No, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett didn’t say those words, but he could have. He could have said that and a lot more after becoming the stuff that legends are made of in Georgia’s 33-18 victory over Alabama in the 2022 National Championship Game.

The thing is, all the doubters and haters…well, they weren’t wrong…at least not until the 4th quarter of the game. Stetson Bennett had never been a true “big-game” quarterback. He was the guy who minimized mistakes, who let the running game and the defense lead the way while he took the heat when things went poorly.

He was (here comes that dreaded phrase) a game manager.

Because until 11:35 in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022, facing down a team who had crushed Georgia’s hopes and dreams in seven consecutive games, Stetson Bennett was simply thought of as “the walk-on who wasn’t good enough to win a title”.

Stetson Bennett became what Georgia needed him to be

Until he wasn’t. Until he was tumbling to the ground in the arms of Alabama linebacker Christian Harris, feebly trying to rid himself of the ball in order to avoid a sack, resulting in a fumble and a Crimson Tide touchdown on the ensuing drive.

From that moment on, Stetson Bennett transformed. He became something bigger. He took on the role of “the guy who was going to carry his team to a desperate win”.

And that’s exactly what he did.

In his postgame interview, Bennett said what he was thinking after that play in one important sentence.

“I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost”

Not only wasn’t he the reason Georgia lost, but he was a key reason why they won.

Yes, it was a team effort in the ultimate team sport, but Stetson Bennett showed Georgia fans a side of him they’d really never seen to that point. The Stetson Bennett who took on all comers and decided he was going to determine his own fate and the fate of his team.

He’d take the glory for a win, or the blame for a loss. But it was going to be on him.

Go ahead, Stetson. Flex. You’ve earned it, along with your victory cigar.

The former walk-on, JUCO transfer, 4th string, and often maligned Georgia quarterback can still come back to play another season if he so chooses. He may or may not be back. He may or may not win the quarterback battle in one of the most star-studded, crowded quarterback rooms in the nation.

He may try his hand at the NFL.

Or, he may never throw a football competitively again.

But the small child who once told his father he was going to be a quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs exceeded his own prophecy and in doing so, etched his name among the greats at one of the greatest institutions in the world.

No, Stetson Bennett wasn’t a big-game quarterback, and then suddenly…he was.

And now he’s a champion, too.

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