Dynamite comes in small packages

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

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Standing at 6’3” and tipping the scales at 310 pounds, Jalen Carter was a beast this past season as a defensive lineman for the University of Georgia.

Ditto for Brock Bowers, a 6’4” tight end who can run like a deer despite weighing 230 pounds.

Yes….football is a game where the players grow bigger, stronger, and faster each year.

Meanwhile, Stetson Bennett IV stands five feet eleven inches tall and weighs 190 pounds. The UGA quarterback looks like a child standing in the huddle with his teammates. But what he lacks in physical size, Bennett more than makes up for in just how big his heart is and his will to succeed. He also understands the team concept…the game isn’t about him, but rather that it takes 11 different parts, all in accord with one another, to move the team forward.

Despite scoring 40 touchdowns running and passing in his senior season at Pierce County High School, Bennett mustered only one scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee State. But he dreamed of wearing the red-and-black uniform at the University of Georgia. He took a gamble and walked on at UGA. He took his lumps as the quarterback on the “scout team” – the unit that emulates the style of the next opponent so that the starters can practice against that scheme. And with Georgia having a rugged first-team defensive unit – one full of future NFL players – Bennett took a beating. But like that old Timex watch commercial says, he kept in ticking.

When Georgia landed five-star quarterback Justin Fields in 2018, Bennett saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall and transferred to Jones County Community College located in Ellisville, Mississippi. There he played in 12 games, throwing for 1,840 yards and 16 touchdowns.

One year later, with Georgia needing some depth at quarterback after Fields transferred to Ohio State, Bennett returned to Athens. He spent the 2019 season as the back-up to Jake Fromm and was the back-up to D’Wan Mathis in 2020 and JT Daniels in 2021. When Daniels went down early in the 2021 season, Bennett got the starting nod and all those years of waiting and learning reaped immediate dividends. In his first start against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Bennett set a school record by throwing for five touchdowns. He never came off the bench again to play…winning 12 straight games.

Despite a loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game that season, Bennett rallied the ‘Dawgs and they went on to avenge that setback by defeating the Crimson Tide in the national championship game.

He followed that up by leading Georgia to a perfect 15-0 record this past season and a second national title, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two others in last Monday’s title game vs. TCU.

That’s the stuff from which legends are made.

Only one other player in the era of the Bowl Championship Series has reached that six-TD milestone in a title game and he is now a hot shot quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow).

During his time in college, Bennett was never named to an All-American team, but yet he has not one, but two national championships to his credit. Also to his credit is the fact that in his four BCS playoff games (two in each of the last two seasons), Bennett was named as the Offensive MVP in all of those outings.

This guy played “big time football” in big games. According to saturdaydownsouth.com, entering last week’s national championship game, Bennett had a quarterback rating of 185.97 against teams that were currently in the AP Top 25, and it was at least 180.0 in six of those seven games. That was the best in America and 6th all-time in the Playoff era.

Then he goes out and lights up TCU to the tune of 304 passing yards (18-of-25 with no interceptions) and four TDs through the air. That’s a QB rating of 226.9.

It’s no wonder that Bennett earned the nickname Mailman while at UGA. This guy delivers!!

About the only drama noted from UGA’s 65-7 beatdown of TCU came when PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent a letter to University of Georgia president Jere Morehead, asking the school to replace its iconic English bulldog mascot (aka “Uga”) with a human at sporting events.

Georgia has been using a live bulldog as its mascot since the 1950’s. It needs to be noted that school officials didn’t send “Uga 10” to this year’s national championship game due to the length of the flight (five hours) from Athens to Los Angeles. It’s highly doubtful that UGA officials will consider PETA’s request.

Bennett grew up in Blackshear, a small town of 3,500 residents in southeastern Georgia, roughly 60 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

“I thank God was I was raised in a town like this, and a community like this, where the values don’t sway if you win a football game or not,” Bennett said in an interview with dawgnation.com just after winning the first title at the close of the 2021 season. “So I try to be the same person day in and day out, and lead by example.”

It bears noting that in the history of college football, only five other quarterbacks have won national titles in consecutive seasons. Not bad for a guy who most said he wasn’t good enough to start at a Power 5 school. Not bad for a guy who despite being brushed aside, refused to quit.

Now with two national championship rings, Bennett has more than proven himself a winner. But more importantly he has given inspiration to each and every undersized player (no matter the position) in high school and college football. He is the poster child for the saying “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog.”

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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