BLACKSHEAR, Ga. – As Stetson Bennett III. In the summertime of 2004 his household moved from suburban Atlanta to southeast Georgia, he took his eldest son and namesake to tour the small city highschool soccer stadium whereas they waited for vehicles to reach.
“Daddy, it is just a little small,” mentioned Stetson Bennett IV.
“Yeah, however they need to make it greater if you’re right here,” his father informed him.
Stetson Bennett IV was in first grade.
Whereas the stage could seem small in Brantley County again then, Bennett IV could not ask for an even bigger one on Saturday evening. He unexpectedly grew to become Georgia’s beginning quarterback and can lead the Bulldogs No. Three in a nationally televised recreation in Alabama No. 2.
“No, I do not assume it might get any greater till December 19th,” mentioned Bennett IV, referring to the scheduled date for the SEC championship recreation in Atlanta. “It will be a fairly large Saturday.”
Bennett IV’s detour from the easily-recruited highschool prospect to the popular walk-on to junior faculty after which again to Georgia got here as a result of most faculty coaches believed he was too small to achieve success on the FBS degree.
Though he led Pierce County Excessive College to 3 back-to-back playoff appearances, throwing 3,724 yards, operating 500, and scoring 40 whole touchdowns as a senior, his solely FBS scholarship supply got here from the state of Center Tennessee. FCS packages like Mercer, Samford, Harvard, and Princeton needed it, however FBS coaches thought it was too quick and too gentle (it was 5-foot-11 and 185 kilos on the time).
“While you develop up in a small city in Georgia, it is exhausting to see,” mentioned his father. “Even in case you are, it is simple to get a reduction.”
Bennett III went out of his method to make sure his son had the prospect to understand his faculty soccer dream. Whereas his new pharmacy was being in-built Nahunta, Georgia, about 80 miles northwest of Jacksonville, Florida, he was paving adjoining land for a soccer discipline.
The sphere was solely 80 meters lengthy; One of many finish zones would have been in the midst of Freeway 82 if it had been the complete 100 meters. Orange development fences prevented footballs (and gamers) from stepping into visitors.
Bennett III purchased two 53-foot delivery containers, lower off one facet and had them welded collectively. The “hiding place” was behind his pharmacy and that is the place Bennett IV and his teammates from Brantley Bandits gathered nearly day-after-day.
“I went by elementary college halls and recruited youngsters to play,” mentioned his father. “It did not matter if he was 30 kilos or 80, I informed him he appeared like he was going to be a soccer participant.”
After college, the gamers would collect within the hideout for snacks of peanut butter, jelly sandwiches, and milk, do a 15-minute devotional, tutoring, and homework, after which train and observe. There have been cabinets for the gamers to hold their tools on, in addition to two referee shirts and a pair of whistles.
Bennett III and different coaches lined the sector with 10-yard strains and diamond marks. One factor is lacking: a sequence gang. If a push was returned to the 32-yard line, possession started on the 30-yard line. If the following cross was 14 yards, it was secured to the 40. The native guidelines usually made opponents scratch their heads.
Throughout recreation week, Bennett III hung a banner for the sport in his pharmacy, and it wasn’t unusual for about 100 folks to indicate up.
Throughout Bennett IV’s seventh grade in 2010, the Brantley Bandits performed a 34 recreation schedule, together with three video games in in the future. They completed 32-2.
“Gosh, that may be loopy now,” mentioned Bennett IV. “We have traveled in all places.”
As an eighth grader, Bennett IV attended quarterback conferences for the Pierce County Excessive College crew and dropped out of the movie with head coach Sean Pender. That very same season, after throwing 455 yards in opposition to a rival college JV crew, the varsity coach mentioned to his father, “This child is actual. I’ve by no means seen a efficiency like this. He can toss it in a mailbox . “
The legend of the “Mailman” was born. A yr or two later, a Pierce County Excessive teammate, whose father was mayor of a close-by city, gave Bennett IV a hat for the U.S. Postal Service.
“We began calling him the postman,” mentioned Kole Kicklighter, one in all his teammates in highschool. “He preferred it and everybody else preferred it, so it caught.”
Bennett IV wore the blue postal service hat to face out in 7v7 tournaments and faculty camps.
Nonetheless, the Energy 5 scholarship supply he dearly needed by no means got here.
“Generally I simply did not actually get it as a result of I used to be like, ‘Nicely, I am fairly positive I am higher than these guys, and I feel I am smarter than them and sooner than them,'” mentioned Bennett IV . “I actually did not know what was occurring. I feel you simply get used to it after which simply say, ‘Nicely, generally you simply have to indicate them.'”
Pender, who performed for Hal Mumme in Valdosta state, mentioned dimension was the one motive his quarterback wasn’t recruited extra closely.
“He was getting shorter, possibly 5 toes, 9 inches by the sophomore yr,” Pender mentioned. “He had a dwelling arm and was fast, humorous and had a gunslinger mentality. He would not trouble with errors and moved on. He simply has that expertise. You’ll be able to inform some youngsters that they’ve that ‘it’ issue . He has it. “”
His father and mom Denise each visited Georgia and he grew up watching Bulldogs video games. The UGA coaches did not appear both.
That modified when Georgian signatory Richard LeCounte informed Bulldogs coach Kirby Sensible concerning the light-footed quarterback. LeCounte had performed in opposition to Bennett IV and Stanford’s engagement Davis Mills (Higher Atlanta Christian), who was voted the perfect quarterback within the nation by at the very least two recruiting providers in 2016.
“Davis Mills could also be the perfect quarterback within the nation,” LeCounte informed Sensible, in line with Stetson Bennett III, “however he is solely second greatest in AAA. I’ve performed each of them and Stetson Bennett is healthier.”
Bennett joined the Bulldogs as the popular companion and led the Scout crew’s offensive at Redshirting in 2017. He praised Georgia’s protection after mimicking Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield to organize for Oklahoma within the CFP semi-finals on the Rose Bowl.
“Stetson Bennett’s a beast, man,” mentioned then Protection Coordinator Mel Tucker. “He is placing loads of stress on our protection as a result of he is extraordinarily quick, he is quick and he can throw. He can throw within the pocket and he can throw on the run and he is very, very aggressive.”
Bulldogs’ then linebacker Lorenzo Carter, now with the New York Giants, mentioned Bennett IV made him and present Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith look “foolish” in Rose Bowl drills.
“He is a fast man,” mentioned Carter. “He can run away from lots of people. He made Roquan look foolish; he made me look foolish. He made lots of people look foolish.”
Nonetheless, when Georgia signed extremely regarded freshman Justin Fields to compete with returning starter Jake Fromm for the following season, Bennett IV might see the writing on the wall. He moved to Jones Faculty in Ellisville, Mississippi, the place he threw 1,840 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2018.
Bennett IV was about to be signing with Louisiana when Pender known as him shortly after Fields introduced he was shifting to the state of Ohio.
“Would you return to Georgia once they have you ever?” Pender requested him.
“Sure,” mentioned Bennett IV. “However it must be completely different this time.”
Pender had befriended then Bulldogs offensive coach Sam Pittman, who recruited Warren McClendon from Brunswick Excessive College on the Georgia coast, the place Pender now trains. Pender helped reunite Bennett IV with the Bulldogs.
“I feel it was – simply to have an opportunity this time round to struggle for the beginning job,” mentioned Bennett IV.
Final season Bennett IV performed 5 video games behind Fromm, trying 27 passes with two touchdowns. When Fromm left for the NFL draft early, the Bulldogs introduced in two transfers – Jamie Newman of Wake Forest and JT Daniels of USC – to battle for his substitute.
Bennett IV appeared the odd man once more. In actual fact, the brand new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, informed him simply that a couple of weeks earlier than the beginning of the preseason camp in August.
“It was irritating, however I simply stored my head down and stored working making an attempt to show them unsuitable,” mentioned Bennett IV. “I needed to verify I used to be prepared at any time when my quantity will get known as.”
On September 2, Newman introduced he was out of the season over coronavirus considerations. Daniels, who missed all however one recreation at USC final season with a knee damage, was nonetheless not medically accredited. Bennett IV and Redshirt newcomer D’Wan Mathis needed to apply for the beginning place.
The Bulldogs kicked off with Mathis in Arkansas on September 26, however he appeared overwhelmed by the point he made eight of 17 passes for 55 yards with an interception. Bennett IV got here off the bench, throwing 211 yards and two touchdowns on a 20v29 cross, main Georgia to a 37-10 win.
“Stetson is assured. He’s assured in himself and he is a competitor,” mentioned offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer. “At all times go on the market and provides no matter he has day-after-day. He would not prefer to lose. You’ll be able to see that at work when he got here in in Arkansas.”
Bennett IV threw for 240 yards with one level in a 27-6 win over then-No. 7 Auburn the following week after which had 238 passes with three whole touchdowns in a 44-21 win over what was then No. 14 Tennessee final week.
In three video games he completed 63.1% of his makes an attempt with 5 touchdowns and with out interruptions. His general QBR of 93.1 ranks third amongst FBS gamers, behind Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and Alabama’s Mac Jones.
“I actually assume he is simply himself,” mentioned Sensible. “He isn’t making an attempt to be another person. He isn’t making an attempt to make it pretend or pretend it. He by no means did that whereas making an attempt to compete for the job, and he hasn’t since he acquired the job Stetson is who he’s and I feel the offensive ability gamers, the offensive line, all of them belief him and collect round him as a result of they know he understands what we’re making an attempt to assault and he can do them properly Carry conditions. “
On Saturday evening, Bennett IV will face its hardest check on the greatest stage but in a recreation that might very properly have an effect on the SEC Championship and CFP races.
It’s going to be a good distance from this tiny soccer stadium in southeast Georgia.