Stetson Bennett and his story have been the focus of a lot of attention this season, and now we can all sit back and look at his place in Georgia history.
“I know he’s got G.O.A.T. status in Athens, Georgia forever”
These are the words of Georgia football head coach, Kirby Smart talking about his quarterback Stetson Bennett immediately after Georgia had secured its second successive national championship with a 65-7 throttling of TCU.
Like a proud father, Georgia head coach, Kirby Smart embraced his quarterback as he retired him in the 4th quarter of the National Championship Game in SoFi stadium to a standing ovation.
Stetson Bennett, whose football career was a slow burn in Athens, finished his college football career at the top of the game, adorned by coaches, players, and fans alike. Bennett’s legacy in Athens was cemented forever in Los Angeles. The State of Georgia adores Stetson Bennett IV.
Nowhere was that love more evident than from his head coach. In fact throughout the week of the build-up to the post-game press conferences, Smart has gushed about his Quarterback.
Stetson Bennett and Kirby Smart had a relationship like no other
It’s rare that Kirby Smart shows such emotion, especially openly towards a player but it is clear that Stetson is special to Kirby and to Georgia. Here are some of the words that Kirby used to describe Bennett’s contribution to the team and not one, but two National Championships.
On his early impressions of Bennett :
"“It reminded me of the Auburn play when Stetson had just taken over, they had a free rusher on him, on his outside shoulder. He spins out, beats the guy.I’m, like, who is that? That’s No. 13. That’s the fast guy. That’s Dee Winters. He splatters people. Your quarterback just took their defensive coordinator and said, you called the perfect call and players make plays”."
On what Stetson Bennett and Javon Bullard mean to the school and the football program :
"“These two young men are special to our program. They’ve done a tremendous job. I don’t know that we have two players that embody toughness more than these two guys. Stetson speaks for himself, the way he leads and prepares. His mental makeup is such of a quarterback that believes he can make every throw and what he did tonight was truly amazing. Probably had his best game of his career, in my opinion, with some of the checks he made, some of the decisions he made, just really elite”."
On how Bennett’s play conquered TCU and set up the Bulldogs for a second successive National Championship:
"“He saw the max blitz and he beat the max blitz and ran for a first down in one of the biggest plays of the game which takes a phenomenal athlete. He knew what was coming and he set the guy up.And when you have a quarterback that can do the protections and check things and know what the defense is doing, yet still beat you with your feet, you’ve got a high-level quarterback. And people have slept on Stetson Bennett for too long. He needs an opportunity to play for a long time at the next level”."
On Bennett’s drive to win and the decision to stay for his final year:
"“About three days from right now last year when he came in my office and he said, I’m trying to decide if I’m going to come back or ride off in the wind. I don’t understand everybody’s telling me I should just ride off into the sunset be the legendary quarterback who won a national title. He said, that’s just not who I am I am.He’s, like, I don’t get it. Why should I do that when I have an opportunity to play again? Why don’t we go win it again?And I’m kind of thinking, well, that would be nice but we lost 15 draft picks. Might not be that easy this time.And he had full conviction that he wanted to come back and go opposite of the mainstream. Like, all he wanted to do – he was here, I think, a year with Jake, and he knew Jake had left early. And he brought it up to me and he said, I want to go play. I want to go play football and prove to people this is no fluke. We can do this.And he did everything that he said he was going to do”."
On Bennett’s eligibility for getting into the College Football Hall of Fame :
"“Should this guy go in? It’s a long time away. I think 20 years from now when he comes back we’ll talk about that. But I don’t know those prerequisites. I know he’s got G.O.A.T. status in Athens, Georgia forever”."
In the lead-up to the game and asked what would Kirby tell his golf buddies in 30 years’ time about the legacy that Stetson is leaving behind :
"“Well, I got a long story to tell you, I can assure you that. You think about the things he and I have been through, decisions made. I mean, from the recruitment process to his official visit to what will happen Monday night. I mean, where to begin?It will be a long round of golf because there’s a lot of history there for he and I. And I’m just appreciative of the way he’s handled everything and really what he stands for."
Kirby Smart said Stetson Bennett has “gotta go”
"“I walked in (to the SoFi Stadium coach’s office after the game) and my 10-year-old son, Andrew, is bawling. And I’m like, ‘Oh, no. Somebody’s hurt his feelings. Somebody’s thrown him down. Somebody’s done something to him.’ I said, ‘Why are you crying? You’re going to ruin my moment.'”“He said, ‘Stetson’s leaving. Stetson’s gone.’”“I said, ‘He’s 25 years old. He’s gotta go!’”"
Stetson Bennett IV now gets to ride off into the sunset, like a Hollywood hero. He will not be forgotten in Athens and clearly not by his head coach. As Kirby says about no one normal, he’s the GOAT. Stetson cannot ask for a better, more fitting end to his Georgia career than this. Congratulations Stetson Bennett IV, from walk-on to GOAT is a wild ride. Well done.