Fans don’t get a vote. They do, however, have a voice – social media, which can sometimes be antisocial media. Bennett spent the past two seasons being told he wasn’t good enough to be Georgia’s QB. That he proved otherwise will be a nice warm feeling in the weeks and decades ahead. That doesn’t mean he won’t hear that JT Daniels/Brock Vandagriff/Carson Beck/Gunner Stockton is better than he is when next Bennett throws an incompletion, even if it’s on G-Day.
Being a 5-foot-11 quarterback, Bennett mightn’t be drafted by an NFL team. Jake Fromm, who’s 6-2 and who almost led Georgia to a national title, was taken in Round 5 two years ago. That isn’t to say Bennett couldn’t get a look as a free agent – as a walk-on, he made his UGA mark with his Baker Mayfield imitation as a scout teamer before the 2017 Rose Bowl – and we’ve learned not to discount this man’s will and the wiles.
Turning pro, even if the aim is just to make a roster, carries the benefit of being paid to play football. Thanks to NIL money – the rights to a student-athlete’s name, image and likeness – a collegian can make above-the-table cash while remaining an amateur. In the week since Georgia beat Bama, we’ve seen Bennett do a stint at the drive-thru window of Raising Cane, a chicken restaurant, and extol the experience of having his hair cut at GreatClips.
Drew Butler, the former Georgia punter who works in the nascent NIL business, told the AJC’s Tim Tucker: “If Stetson is interested in it, he could become the highest-paid player in all of college sports.” How much might the highest-paid college player – that phrase alone shows how much our world has changed – make? Millions, Butler said.
So there’s that. There’s also the possibility, Tucker reported, of a movie deal. (The Hollywood pitch: “If you reveled in ‘Rudy,’ you’ll swoon for Stetson.”) In the long term, Bennett won’t lack for opportunities. He told GMA he’d like to go to law school. But if he wants to play football next season and the NFL isn’t a viable option, what is?
Some of Georgia’s quarterbacks will transfer. It’s what quarterbacks do. (Bennett himself spent a season at a Mississippi JUCO before returning to Athens.) It’s not unprecedented for the No. 1 QB of a playoff team to be demoted: In 2018, it happened with Jalen Hurts at Alabama and Kelly Bryant at Clemson. If Bennett has reason to believe the Bulldogs might again choose someone else, is it unthinkable that the MVP of Indy would enter the transfer portal?
Bennett on GMA: “We will see if I can trust the decisions made by the staff.”
Bennett will turn 24 in October. There aren’t many 24-year-olds playing college football – nor have there been many sixth-year seniors – but his story is remarkable in so many ways we’ve lost count. What would be absolutely nuts if, come Sept. 3, Georgia takes the field in Mercedes-Benz Stadium and sees Stetson Fleming Bennett IV starting for the Oregon Ducks.