ATHENS, Ga. (BVM) – Stetson Bennett, a.k.a. the Mailman, delivers on Saturdays — but who is he really?
For many, Bennett is a textbook version of a movie plot. He went from settling as quarterback for Jones County Junior College in Mississippi to the starting quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs, the eventual 2021 national champions. It honestly writes itself and can be looked at as one of the greatest sports stories of our time.
Bennett was raised in Blackshear, Georgia, a small town in the southeastern region of the state. Raised in a Bulldog home, he knew from a young age that he wanted to play quarterback for his dream school in Athens. While Bennett was in high school, he traveled around the south to participate in the Elite 11 camp circuit. He wore a U.S. Postal Service hat to each of these camps because he wanted to have something that people would remember him by. This, alongside his excellent performances, earned him the nickname “the mailman.”
Bennett’s journey did not come without its struggles. He had full-ride scholarship offers to play football at schools such as Mercer University and Middle Tennessee State University, but declined to take these offers. Rather, he opted to walk-on at Georgia as a two-star recruit. However, with the signing of five-star recruit Justin Fields in 2018, Bennett elected to transfer to Jones County Junior College with hopes of securing solid playing time.
He led an impressive campaign with the Bobcats as he recorded 1,820 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 appearances and led the program to a 10-2 record on the season. After his lone sophomore season at Jones County, Bennett placed his name in the transfer portal once again. Originally, he was set to sign with Louisiana as a three-star recruit, though things went in a different direction. He received a call from Georgia inviting him to sign on with a football scholarship. The Bulldogs were in need of a backup quarterback after Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State.
During his 2019 campaign, Bennett did not see much playing time behind starter Jake Fromm. His most notable action came during the SEC Championship against LSU when Fromm was sidelined due to injury. Bennett finished the season with 260 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 27 passing attempts.
After Fromm elected to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft, the Bulldogs had a vacancy in their starting quarterback position. They signed graduate transfer Jamie Newman, five-star recruit Carson Beck and USC transfer JT Daniels, with sophomore D’Wan Mathis and Bennett on their bench.
Newman opted out of the season to prepare for the draft and Daniels was out with a lingering injury. This left Bennett an opportunity to compete for the starting spot against Mathis. Unfortunately for Bennett, Mathis was awarded the starting spot for their opening game. However, things began to turn around after a rough start for Mathis led to Bennett taking over in Georgia’s matchup against Arkansas mid-game. He finished the game with 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing.
Bennett played the majority of the season as the starter until JT Daniels returned from injury. Bennett finished the season with 1,179 yards and 8 touchdowns and helped lead the Bulldogs to an 8-2 record. Despite this feat, fans were not content with Bennett and his performances as Georgia’s quarterback. Many cited his performances in big games against rivals Alabama and Florida as examples of lackluster ability.
No. 3 Georgia met No. 2 Alabama in a huge game that had CFP implications, as well as the continuation of their SEC rivalry. Bennett struggled mightily in the contest and only completed 18-of-40 pass attempts for 269 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. The Bulldogs fell to the Crimson Tide, 41-24.
Georgia fell two spots and faced off against the No. 8 Florida in a game that essentially determined the team that would represent the SEC East in the 2020 SEC Championship. Bennett struggled once again and completed 5-of-16 pass attempts for 78 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. The Bulldogs suffered their second loss on the season and fell 44-28.
Both of these losses cost the Bulldogs their ticket to the College Football Playoff, and many fans blamed Bennett. He was later replaced by JT Daniels, following his return from injury. Daniels began the 2021 season as the starter for the Bulldogs, but eventually was sidelined with another injury. This left the door open once again for Bennett’s redemption season as he would become the starter in week four.
There were still doubts about his ability to perform in big games, but he consistently played well in ranked matchups against teams such as No. 8 Arkansas, No. 18 Auburn, and No. 11 Kentucky. No. 1 Georgia’s undefeated season set the stage for a juggernaut matchup in the SEC Championship against No. 3 Alabama.
Bennett performed better in their matchup this time around and completed 29-of-48 passes for 340 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. However, those turnovers would prove to be costly as the Bulldogs would fall to the Tide once again, 41-24. Fortunately, the Bulldogs’ impressive regular season campaign was enough to cement their spot in the CFP with redemption on their mind.
Georgia dismantled Michigan in the Orange Bowl behind Bennett’s 313 passing yards and three touchdowns. This would bring Georgia and Alabama face-to-face once again for all the marbles in the 2021 CFB National Championship.
After a slow first half, Georgia prevailed and won their first national championship in 41 long and grueling years for Bulldog fans. Bennett finished the contest with 224 yards and two touchdowns. He completed his 2021 championship run with 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns on the season. More importantly, he finished the season with the respect, love and admiration of an entire sports fan base.
In the end, Bennett cemented his legacy as one of the greatest stories in the history of college football and as a Georgia Bulldog legend. At the end of the season, amongst discussions of whether he would ride off into the sunset as a hero in Athens or return for one last run, he made the decision to come back for the 2022 season.