Stetson Bennett had his first walk at the age of just 3. He would often get lost on walks and always ended up in a different place every time he started walking again. This led to him having hundreds of miles on foot under his belt at an early age, but it wasn’t until he was 21 that Stetson began training for marathons with the goal of completing one by 2020.
Stetson Bennett is a professional American football player who has been playing for the Atlanta Falcons since 2013. He was born in Georgia and went to high school there before going on to play college football at Jacksonville State.
Note from the editor: This article was first published in October 2020. The information has been updated.
BLACKSHEAR, Georgia – In the summer of 2004, when Stetson Bennett III and his family relocated from suburban Atlanta to southeast Georgia, he brought his oldest son and namesake to visit the little town’s high school football field as they awaited moving trucks.
Stetson Bennett IV said, “Daddy, it’s a bit little.”
“Yeah,” his father said, “but they’ll have to make it larger when you get here.”
Stetson Bennett IV was in first grade at the time.
While the stage might have seemed small in Brantley County back then, Bennett IV couldn’t ask for a bigger one on Monday night. Georgia’s unlikely starting quarterback will be looking to end more than 40 years of heartache when his No. 3 Bulldogs square off against No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T for the national title (Monday, 8 p.m., ESPN and ESPN App).
Icon Sportswire/David Murray
“Do I realize how much it means to a lot of people?” Bennett said this on Monday. “Yes. Is it possible that by winning a national championship for millions of people, I’m attempting to play the role of savior? No. That is not my role, in my opinion.”
Bennett’s winding path from poorly recruited high school prospect to favored walk-on to junior college and then back to Georgia was complicated by the fact that most college coaches thought he was too undersized to thrive at the FBS level.
His single FBS scholarship offer came from Middle Tennessee State, despite leading Pierce County High School to three straight state playoff appearances and passing for 3,724 yards, 500 yards on the ground, and 40 total touchdowns as a senior. Mercer, Samford, Harvard, and Princeton were all interested in him, but FBS coaches believed he was too little and light (he was 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds at the time).
“It’s difficult to be noticed when you grow up in a little town in Georgia,” his father said. “It’s easy to be dismissed even when you are.”
Bennett III did all he could to ensure that his son could pursue his ambition of playing big-time college football. He leveled an adjacent property for a football field while his new drugstore was being constructed in Nahunta, Georgia, some 80 miles northwest of Jacksonville, Florida.
The field was only 80 yards long; if it had been the full 100 yards, one of the end zones would have been in the center of Highway 82. Footballs (and players) were kept out of traffic by orange construction fencing.
Bennett III bought two 53-foot shipping containers, chopped one side off of each, and welded them together. Bennett IV and his Brantley Bandits colleagues met virtually every day in the “Hideout” behind his drugstore.
His father said, “I toured the corridors of the primary school encouraging youngsters to play.” “I told him he looked like he was going to be a football player whether he was 30 pounds or 80 pounds.”
The players met in the Hideout after school for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk, followed by a 15-minute devotional, tutoring and schoolwork, then a workout and practice. There were racks on which the players could hang their gear, as well as two referee jerseys and two whistles.
Bennett III and other coaches drew 10-yard lines and hashmarks on the field. There’s one thing that’s missing: a chain gang. The possession began at the 30-yard line if a kickoff was returned to the 32-yard line. The following throw would be backed up to the 40 yard line if it traveled 14 yards. Opponents were often perplexed by the local restrictions.
During game week, Bennett III posted a banner from his drugstore publicizing the event, and crowds of up to 100 individuals were not uncommon.
The Brantley Bandits played a 34-game schedule during Bennett IV’s seventh-grade season in 2010, including three games in one day. They concluded with a record of 32-2.
Bennett IV said, “Gosh, it would be insane to do today.” “We went all over the place,” says the narrator.
In 2002, Stetson Bennett IV was at the Georgia-Alabama game with his father. Bennett family courtesy
Bennett IV sat in on quarterback meetings and went through video with head coach Sean Pender as an eighth-grader at Pierce County High School. After he passed for 455 yards against a rival school’s JV team the same season, the varsity coach informed his father, “That kid is the real deal. That was the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen. He’ll be able to put it in a mailbox.”
It was then that the mythology of the “Mailman” was formed. Bennett IV received a USPS hat from a Pierce County High classmate whose father was the mayor of a neighbouring town a year or two later.
Kole Kicklighter, one of his high school classmates, stated, “We began dubbing him the Mailman.” “It stayed because he loved it and everyone else enjoyed it.”
Bennett IV sported the blue Postal Service cap in 7-on-7 competitions and college camps to stand out.
Despite this, he never received the Power 5 scholarship offer he so much desired.
“Sometimes I just didn’t get it because I was like, ‘Well, I’m fairly sure I’m better than these people, and I believe I’m smarter and quicker than them,’” says the narrator. Bennett remarked. “I was completely oblivious to what was going on. I believe you just grow accustomed to it and then say, ‘Well, you’ve got to show them every now and again.’”
Pender, who played for Hal Mumme at Valdosta State, believes his quarterback’s lack of height was the sole reason he wasn’t more widely pursued.
“As a sophomore, he was usually smaller, maybe 5 feet, 9 inches,” Pender recalled. “He was swift, smart, and had a gunslinger’s attitude, and he had a live arm. He didn’t linger on his faults and instead moved on. He simply has a way with words. You can tell when a child has the ‘it’ factor. He’s got it.”
Bennett’s father and mother, Denise, were both Georgia Bulldogs fans, and he grew up going to games. UGA’s coaches were uninterested as well.
When Georgia signee Richard LeCounte informed Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart about the quick-footed quarterback, everything changed. Bennett and Stanford pledge Davis Mills (Greater Atlanta Christian), who was considered the country’s best quarterback by at least two recruiting agencies in 2016, had played against LeCounte.
“According to Stetson Bennett III, LeCounte told Smart, “Davis Mills may be the finest quarterback in the nation, but he’s just second best in Class AAA.” I’ve played both, and Stetson Bennett is the superior player.”
Stetson Bennett IV, seen with an Elite 11 coach, was dubbed “Mailman” as a kid because of his pinpoint accuracy in the air. Bennett family courtesy
Bennett redshirted in 2017 after joining the Bulldogs as a preferred walk-on and running the scout-team offense. Georgia’s defense praised him after he imitated Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield in practice for a CFP semifinal against Oklahoma at the Rose Bowl.
“Stetson Bennett is a beast, dude,” remarked Mel Tucker, the defensive coordinator at the time. “Because he is really quick and can throw, he puts a lot of pressure on our defense. He can throw both in the pocket and on the run, and he’s a fierce competitor.”
In 2017, Stetson Bennett IV was recognized for his contributions to Georgia’s scout team. Bennett family courtesy
Bennett made then-Bulldogs linebacker Lorenzo Carter and current Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith “look dumb” in Rose Bowl preparations, according to Carter, who is now with the New York Giants.
Carter described him as “a fast man.” “He has the ability to outpace most people. He’s made Roquan seem ridiculous, and he’s made me look ridiculous. He’s embarrassed a lot of people.”
Bennett could see the writing on the wall when Georgia recruited highly rated freshman Justin Fields to compete with returning starter Jake Fromm the following season. In 2018, he went to Jones College in Ellisville, Mississippi, and passed for 1,840 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Pender phoned Bennett soon after Fields announced his transfer to Ohio State, just as he was about to sign with Louisiana.
“Would you return to Georgia if they would accept you?” He was questioned by Pender.
Bennett said, “Yes.” “But this time needs to be different.”
Pender had gotten close with Sam Pittman, the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach at the time, who was recruiting Warren McClendon from Brunswick High School on the Georgia coast, where Pender currently coaches. Bennett was reunited with the Bulldogs thanks to Pender.
“I believe that was it — simply to get a chance to fight for the starting position this time,” Bennett said.
Bennett appeared in five games behind Fromm in 2019, attempting 27 throws for 27 yards and two touchdowns. When Fromm went early for the NFL draft, the Bulldogs brought in two transfers to fight for his spot: Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman and USC’s JT Daniels.
Once again, Bennett seemed to be the odd man out. In fact, new offensive coordinator Todd Monken informed him as much a few weeks before the start of preseason camp in August 2020.
“It was difficult,” Bennett recalled, “but I simply put my head down and continued working, wanting to prove them wrong.” “I wanted to make sure I was ready to go once my number was called.”
Newman announced his withdrawal from the season in early September 2020, citing worries about the coronavirus. Daniels, who had missed all but one game at USC due to a knee ailment in 2019, was yet to be allowed to play. Bennett and D’Wan Mathis, a redshirt freshman, were left to contend for the starting role.
The Bulldogs started Mathis against Arkansas in the opener, but he struggled to complete 8 of 17 passes for 55 yards and one interception. Bennett came off the bench and went 20-for-29 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, guiding Georgia to a 37-10 victory.
“Stetson is self-assured. He believes in himself and is a competitor “Jamaree Salyer, an offensive lineman, remarked at the time. “Every day, Stets goes out there and gives it all he’s got. He isn’t a big fan of losing.”
Bennett was once again passed over for a healthy Daniels, who started the season opener against Clemson. Bennett started the next week against UAB after Daniels sustained an oblique injury against the Tigers. Daniels, a former five-star recruit, was back in the starting lineup the following week against South Carolina after tying a school record with five touchdowns in the first half in a 56-7 blowout of the Blazers.
“I’m not allowed to talk to the five-star guests in the room. I wasn’t one of them “Bennett said. “Before a walk-on has a chance to succeed, those players will be given every opportunity to fail. That’s how I’ll put it. It’s all in the name of business. Who’s to say that if you recruit all these five-stars and then play walk-ons over every single one of them, the next five-star won’t notice and won’t come here? Walk-ons are usually preferable than five-stars. That’s how it usually happens.”
When Daniels hurt his lat muscle in the first half against Vanderbilt on Sept. 25, Bennett took over and never relinquished the position, despite Georgia supporters’ protests. Even Monken confesses that he misjudged Bennett’s abilities.
“I believe Stetson has definitely underrated his skill set at times — I’m talking about myself,” Monken added. “We’ve tried to promote individuals on our roster who have skill, and we do that at every position,” he said. “But some guys just battle and scratch and keep playing good and try to prove you wrong, and that’s what Stetson Bennett did.”
Bennett has done precisely what Smart has requested since coming over. He has passed for 2,638 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions while playing behind a strong defense. He still hears the naysayers, of course. He works as a game director. He can’t match five-star prospect Bryce Young, the current Heisman Trophy winner and projected top NFL draft selection, point for point.
The Tide surged out to a second-half lead over Georgia in the SEC final game, and Bennett labored. It sparked speculation about whether Smart should play in the playoffs at Daniels. Bennett retaliated in the Capital One Orange Bowl by passing for 313 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan, setting up a rematch with Alabama. Of course, it was in the context of a 34-11 thrashing in which the Wolverines just couldn’t cope with Georgia’s defense. Is Bennett capable of doing so in the face of Nick Saban and Will Anderson?
After the SEC championship game, Bennett remarked of his confidence, “There was no personal question.” “I knew exactly what I needed to accomplish. Because of who they are and how great they are, I felt like I needed to play that well to defeat a team like Michigan. But it wasn’t to show to myself that I was capable of playing football in this level.”
Bennett will face his most toughest test on the largest platform yet on Monday night, in a game that will define the careers of so many Bulldogs.
It’ll be a long way from that teeny-tiny Georgia football stadium.
“Hopefully, after this season, after this game, we’ll be able to defeat a strong Alabama team,” Bennett said. “Then, perhaps, we’ll all be able to sit down and discuss things like, “Wow, did you notice how dazzling those lights were?” ‘Wow, it was incredible.’”
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“Stetson Bennett” is the name of a player with Georgia who went from walk-on to star. He was given a scholarship in 2015 and has been playing ever since. Reference: stetson bennett 247.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Stetson Bennett the fourth from?
A: Stetson is a fictional character that was made for the film The Magnificent Seven.
Where did Stetson Bennett go to college?
A: Stetson Bennett went to the University of North Carolina.
Is Stetson Bennett a junior?
A: Yes, Stetson Bennett is a junior.
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