INDIANAPOLIS -- Stetson Bennett IV doesn't quit. He didn't quit as a high-schooler when he traveled to camp after camp wearing a United States Postal Service hat simply to get noticed. He didn't quit as a freshman walk-on when he played for his dream school despite being buried down the depth chart. He didn't quit when he transferred to Jones County (Mississippi) Community College. He didn't quit when he bet on himself by transferring back to Georgia as a scholarship quarterback hoping for playing time.
In the 33-18 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night, Bennett didn't quit when questionable decision-making kept the Crimson Tide in the game despite their own struggles on offense. The most glaring mistake that tested the resiliency of Bennett, however, came in the fourth quarter when he was sacked by Christian Harris and fumbled the ball forward. Defensive back Brian Branch picked it up on the Georgia 16-yard line, not knowing it was a live ball, and five plays later, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young tossed a touchdown pass to give his team a one-point lead.
"I just knew that there would be no way that I was going to let a turnover like that stop us from winning a national championship," Bennett said on the broadcast. "I wasn't going to let that happen. I wasn't going to be the reason we lost it."
Bennett went 3-of-3 passing on the ensuing drive, including a perfect 40-yard touchdown strike to Adonai Mitchell to put his team back up by one. All told, he went 4-of-4 passing for 83 yard with two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the fourth quarter as his Bulldogs scored the final 20 points of the game against the reigning national champions.
It was Bennett who came up clutch on the game's biggest stage, not Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. Bennett was the one who earned Offensive Player of the Game honors with 224 passing yards. His perfect fourth quarter was the ideal conclusion to one of the most remarkable seasons in college football history.
It was a four-month ride into college football history for a player who will never have to buy a drink in Athens for the rest of his life.
Speaking of his life, enterprising Hollywood producers should begin gathering funds. This story should be a feature film faster than bourbon shots are poured at Athens-area watering holes following this win. Bennett's story should serve as a reminder to kids across the world that, in this day and age of the transfer portal and instant gratification, that perseverance, dedication and patience can also lead to glory.
"I love this place," Bennett said on the podium. "I love this team. I believe in myself. I think I'm the best quarterback. I just love everything about this place and I wanted to win a national championship here."
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Bennett addressed what underdogs around the world can learn from his trek to college football immortality.
"I hope it gives somebody a little hope," he said. "Just keep fighting. Keep your mouth shut. Work hard. Life's tough, and you just gotta fight through it.
Bennett has worn a lot of labels since joining the Bulldogs as part of the 2017 class. He's been the "mailman," the "walk-on," the "backup," the "liability," and, on Monday night, the "legend."
That's a moniker that he earned, and can never be taken away from him.
Georgia Bulldogs championship gear released
The Dawgs have won their first national championship in 41 years! You can now buy Georgia championship shirts, hats, hoodies and much more to celebrate the historic win. Get gear here now!
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