Jones College product leads Georgia to National Title game

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 12:43 AM CST
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ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Steve Buckley urged Stetson Bennett not to go back to the University of Georgia.

Bennett had a scholarship offer waiting for him at Louisiana-Lafayette with coach Billy Napier - but a late call from the Bulldogs on National Signing Day changed the quarterback’s course of direction.

“The first thing I said, ‘Well you’re crazy if you back there,’” Buckley said. “I just don’t think that’s the thing you need to do. You’ve decided you want to go to Lafayette, you’ve been over on a trip. He liked it. ‘Stet, you’re going to back into the same situation you’re leaving.’

“I never thought it was my job to tell kids where to go but I think it’s my job as a head coach to advise them on what I believe. I never said Stet could not play there. I just didn’t think it was the right situation.”

The Blackshear, Georgia native and former UGA walk-on came to Ellisville to get playing time and he saw plenty.

Bennett finished up a solid - but not earth-shattering - season at Jones College in the fall of 2018.

He passed for 1,840 yards with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions - leading the Bobcats to a 10-2 record and Mississippi Bowl win.

“Someone asked me this the other day: ‘When did it flip and you knew he was going to be the starting quarterback at Georgia?’” Buckley said. “And that never happened. Were there some ‘wow’ moments for Stet? Absolutely. There was never one minute where he had gone to a different level as far as greatness. I mean he was very steady.”

Maybe steady is the most important intangible of playing quarterback. Bennett has certainly shown his chops this season - named the Offensive Most Valuable Player of the Orange Bowl after 310 yards passing and three touchdowns to lead Georgia past Michigan 34-11.

No stage will test Bennett’s fortitude more than Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama.

Buckley said Bennett checks every box you look for in a quarterback except one - size.

But the 5-foot-11 gunslinger makes up for it with arm talent, football IQ and confidence.

“When a kid believes in himself and loves a school, it just shows you what can happen,” Buckley said. “Stet was fourth string quarterback this past spring. To see him fight, battle, grind, not jump out and leave and quit and go somewhere else - it’s pretty remarkable because I can assure you there were some days where he thought about it and talked about it. It’s a great testament to hang in there.”

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