The Walk On Beats the 5-Star: A Classic Underdog Story
The quarterback for Alabama is the classic 5-star recruit. Bryce Young was ranked the best quarterback in the country as a high school senior. He was on everybody’s dream team and he broke all the records. He was the quarterback selected to be placed on the Sports Illustrated All-American team. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he earned Offensive MVP honors. Bryce Young had his pick of colleges to attend. Like so many others in his position, he chose the University of Alabama. This season he won the Heisman Trophy.
The quarterback for Georgia is the classic walk-on story. Stetson Bennett was an accomplished quarterback out of small town, Pierce County High School in rural Georgia. He received 1 scholarship offer from an FBS school, which was Middle Tennessee State. At 5′ 11” and 185 lbs., he was considered too small to play major college football. “When you grow up in a little small town in Georgia, it’s hard to be seen,” his father said. “Even when you are, it’s easy to be discounted.” Stetson believed in himself and walked-on to the University of Georgia football team in 2017. He wowed as a “scout team” quarterback during his freshman year, but, of course, Georgia kept recruiting 4 and 5 star quarterbacks. Stetson could see the writing on the wall and transferred to Jones College in 2018. He played well, and after the season, he was set to transfer to Louisiana. However, one of the Georgia coaches asked Stetson if he would consider coming back. Stetson said he would, but it would have to be different this time. “I need to be given a chance this time to compete for the starting job,” Stetson said.
In 2019, he sat behind Eric Fromm, who is now in the NFL. In 2020, they brought in two high-profile transfers. Stetson was slated as the backup. However, the starter didn’t play so well. Stetson came in and played well as a starter all season. Even with all that success, he lost the starting job coming into this season. The five-star starter got injured twice before Stetson was allowed to take the reigns.” I can’t speak to the five-stars in the room. I wasn’t one,” Stetson said. “Those guys are going to get every opportunity to fail before a walk-on gets an opportunity to succeed.” Stetson Bennett wasn’t given an opportunity. He took it and never looked back.
And, last night, the walk-on led Georgia to a national championship over the 5-star Heisman Trophy winner and #1 ranked Alabama. In the 4th quarter, Bennett fumbled the ball, which led to Alabama taking the lead. “We weren’t going to let a turnover like that from costing us a national championship,” Bennett said afterward. “I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost tonight.” On the next possession, Georgia drove down the field and Bennett threw the go-ahead touchdown pass. A few short minutes later, the former walk-on was receiving the Offensive MVP Award and hoisting the National Championship Trophy.
Joe’s Perspective: Everyone should love this story. Counted out so many times, overlooked, benched, discounted… No one gave Bennett anything, he had to earn it. He worked hard, grinded, studied and won the starting job. Bennett is the quintessential underdog story. And, we are all underdogs. People will continually tell you what you can’t do. They will put up barriers and set up limits. Bennett shows us all, that at least sometimes, we can overcome the odds.
About 15 years ago, Randy Pausch, a man dying of cancer, wrote a book entitled, The Last Lecture. He provided a number of life lessons that he wanted to pass on to his kids. The one I remember is, “The Brick Walls are Put Up for Other People.” Those walls, those barriers, those regulations are put up to keep the other people out. He encourages us all to find ways to overcome the brick wall. My guess is Stetson Bennett read that book at some point in his life.
Your Turn: What are your thoughts on the underdog, Stetson Bennett, leading Georgia to a national championship last night?