Georgia football and Stetson Bennett story for the ages

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 10: Stetson Bennett #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after the Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 10: Stetson Bennett #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after the Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Small-town, undersized kid with Georgia football championship dreams and a huge heart wins the starting job for his favorite schools and, despite all odds and constant distrust from his fan base, lead them against the most feared program in college football to win the school’s first national championship in 41 years after numerous years of heartbreak and almost’s.

The story practically writes itself. At least it would in Hollywood. But this is real life. How often do things like that actually happen, if ever?

Georgia football and Stetson Bennett IV’s story might be one of the best sports stories yet.

Picture it. Fayetteville, Arkansas 2020. Georgia’s newly named starting quarterback is struggling. Due to opt-outs and injuries, head coach Kirby Smart was forced to turn to former walk-on and current fifth-string quarterback Stetson Bennett IV. And then the unthinkable happens. He puts the team on his shoulders and wins — and continues to win for several weeks.

Mailman fever, or Mailman Magic as I liked to call it, was born. Because of the injury to JT Daniels, almost everyone was entirely on board the Mailman train, I mean truck, as he delivered four wins for the Dawgs in a year that was, to put it mildly, crazy.

His two losses only came on the road to eventual national champion Alabama and then Florida after being injured on his second touchdown drive. Before the injury, Bennett was on fire and looking like he would lead the Dawgs to another victory. But unfortunately, he was injured, Daniels was named the starter the next week, and Mailman Magic faded into a fond memory.

Cue Alan Jackson’s “Here in the Real World.” And that was that. The world moved on, the off-season came and went, and Georgia again named Daniels the starter.

Excitement was high around the program over all the potential and promise surrounding this team as many key pieces were in place. Hope was bubbling beneath the surface, just waiting for everyone to believe. And after the victory over Clemson, most started to.

And then the news broke about Daniels’ injury. And nobody freaked out too much because we’d seen what Bennett had done last year, and it was just UAB, right? Smart tried both quarterbacks the following week against South Carolina, but that felt awkward, and Daniels was back to being the starter the following week against Vandy.

And then the injury flared back up right before the Dawgs took on a top 10 ranked Arkansas and head into the meat of their schedule with back-to-back SEC matchups. Bennett was named the starter, and people began to freak. Not everyone did, though.

Some thought he could take us at least through the regular season with that historic defense. A few even thought he might lead Georgia all the way if need be.

Pandemonium ensued after beating Arkansas, and a top 20 ranked Auburn on the road. The Mailman had delivered once again, and the Dawgs were the undisputed number one.

After all the doubt and hate thrown Bennett’s way already, I wrote this thread on his Twitter bio: Ad Astra Per Alas Porci, which is dog Latin for “To The Stars on the Wings of a Pig.” The phrase was coined by American author John Steinbeck who adopted it and the pigasus, also on Bennett’s profile, as his motto and emblem after a teacher supposedly told him he would become a writer “when pigs flew.”

Steinbeck’s wife said that “the little pig said that man must try to attain the heavens even though his equipment be meager.” Steinbeck himself said he was “earthbound but aspiring…not enough wingspread but plenty of intention.”

It’s a fitting motto for a former walk-on scout team quarterback turned fifth-string starter. Bennett, despite his flaws, represents all that’s good about Georgia football. Undersized, but with a heart and passion that cannot be measured. “Not enough wingspan, but plenty of intention.” “Earthbound but aspiring.”

So while lines were drawn and so many fans continued to doubt and pile on the hate, Bennett just put his head down and worked.

Not tall enough to play quarterback. He is one inch taller than Kyler Murray.

Inaccurate. Bennett finished the regular season with the No. 4 highest quarterback rating in the nation.

Not enough arm strength? Bennett was one of the most accurate deep ball passers all year.

But the stakes were higher this year. Everybody could see it because they were still averaging 40 points a game even with all the injuries on offense. That defense was suffocating, holding all opponents under 13 points until Tennessee.

You can’t beat Bama. That was the only remaining thing people could say. And while so many of us hoped it wouldn’t be true, on December 4th, the haters and doubters got to be right.

While Bennett’s two picks were not the defining moments of the game, they were the ones people remembered, repeated, and talked about the most for the next three weeks despite the defense’s lackluster performance.

So much so that on December 29th, in a rant to a family member, I said that I had had enough of all these so-called fans just waiting for him to make a mistake to the point that it almost seemed like they were cheering for us to lose.

And some had even said that. Just once, I wanted them to have to take it all back. I actually said, “I hope we beat Michigan big, and he wins Offensive MVP just to prove them all wrong.”

Then he did by throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns. With another dominating defensive performance, Bennett secured an Orange Bowl victory for the Dawgs and a rematch against Alabama in the national title game for all the marbles.

While I don’t know about you, I definitely teared up at the end of that game. From the love Bennett gave to his teammates in his interview to the defense led by Nolan Smith hyping him up on the field in celebration to the fans chanting his name, that moment was perfect. Like a scene from your favorite sports film. It was everything I had hoped would happen and more.

But then it ended, and reality once again came calling as doubt began to creep in. The haters were silenced briefly, but they still whispered, what about Bama? He can’t beat Bama.

C.S. Lewis would say, “We have nothing if not belief.” And I’d like to say I had nothing but 100% pure belief. But that would be a lie. After so many heartbreaking losses to Alabama, fully believing again was hard. I really, honestly thought that the 2017 team would beat Bama only to be so devastated at the end.

What if they were right, and Bennett was just the next player who came close but ultimately failed? What if the Orange Bowl victory was the highest star we could reach?

Then Monday night came. The defense looked phenomenal, just like we had hoped. But the offense was painful to watch, and I knew what everyone would say. Even though it’s since come out that Bennett might have been playing through an injury.

After Bennett’s fumble, a big part of me thought the game was over, but deep down in my heart, there was still a little part of me that believed and hoped because I’m a Georgia fan. We don’t let go of hope until the clock hits 00:00.

But you know what? It didn’t matter how much I believed. All that mattered was how much Stetson Bennett believed in himself and how much his teammates and coaches did as well. And after that amazing touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell, I was back, fully believing we could do it and that this would be the year we would finally, after so much time, pull it off.

I love stories, but I always dread the ending. What if it’s awful? What if it’s a catastrophe, and I cry? But, I keep reading and watching, hoping that it’s a happy ending, a eucatastrophe. Invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, a eucatastrophe is “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.”

I’ve always wanted to see a national title return to Athens. I didn’t think I could want to win one more than I did on January 8, 2018. But the funny thing about loss is that it only increases your desire for what you’re missing more. I thought the 2017 team would have been an amazing story. And it would have. But it doesn’t compare to the story that was written this year.

This year, I wanted that ending, that eucatastrophe, so badly that it hurt. I wanted it for my mother, who’s the reason I’m a Georgia fan. I wanted it for all my family members who have seen other families celebrate their championships. I wanted it for Kirby and all the players who have given so much to this team.

I wanted it for Bennett and all he and his family had to go through this past year, which was more than any player should have to go through for playing the game they love. And I wanted it for me too. I wanted that happy ending, that movie unfolding before your eyes, that eucatastrophe. I wanted Bennett, the former walk-on, to be the quarterback to bring that trophy home to Athens finally.

So when Kelee Ringo made that interception and ran it back, I screamed and cried like everyone else. That sudden happy turn pierced me with such a joy that I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes.

The defense sealed the lead and the victory over the Crimson Tide. Bennett crying on the sideline, the weight of the season, and the hatred and doubt heaped upon him by everyone, fans and media, finally being released at that moment. Then Bennett was named offensive MVP once again. Red and black confetti falling from the sky. And a golden trophy so bright it shined like the stars.

Thanks to that record-breaking defense, Smart, and of course, the Mailman himself, the Dawgs are now national champions, delivering a trophy home to Athens. The first title in 41 years on the wings of a pig. That’s a story for the ages.

It’s a beautiful reminder of why we all love college football. Because sometimes, Cinderella stories do happen. Sometimes, dreams do come true and magical moments await.

Next. These important explosive plays led Georgia football to victory. dark

Stories like this remind us that there’s still a little bit of magic anywhere, as long as someone’s willing to put in a whole lot of work and belief. It’s the ending I always wanted and more. And I couldn’t write it any better than God already did‬.