By Sarah Lounsbury | @saraahlounsbury
Sports Capital Journalism Program
LOS ANGELES — At the start of the Georgia Bulldogs’ media day session on Saturday prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship, starting quarterback Stetson Bennett enters the Los Angeles Convention Center unfazed amid crowds of reporters and cameras. With each step he takes towards his assigned podium, Bennett walks with a sense of conviction that radiates throughout the room. His face is stern, his posture upright.
It’s clear the attention that comes with playing on the biggest stage in college football is no match for his sole focus—winning his second national championship for the Bulldogs. The key to his success? Self-confidence and preparation.
“I’ve always had a pretty good idea of who I am, what I want to achieve and what I want to go for,” said Bennett.
Thanks to the poise and leadership of Bennett, Georgia is playing for back-to-back national titles on Monday night at SoFi Stadium. Bennett led the Bulldogs in dominating fashion throughout the 2022 season, including a 46-point victory over the Oregon Ducks which marked the largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent in school history. Georgia’s high level of play combined with Bennett’s pursuit of excellence helped his team maintain a perfect 14-0 record.
“He has a lot of confidence,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. “He’s a deep thinker. He just goes through the process of what he’s going to do and doesn’t let it affect him.”
The source of Bennett’s confidence comes from preparation. Arriving hours early to the facility, watching film over and over and staying after practice to hone his skills are all common practice for him.
“He’s at the facility 10, 11 o’clock at night,” said Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith. “He’s always got a notepad or a computer out watching film, things like that. That’s something he did last year that he’s doing this year and it’s continuing to pay off for him and our team.”
After helping Georgia capture the National Championship a year ago and being named Offensive Most Valuable Player of the victory over Alabama, Bennett continued to go to work. Success appeared to be the ultimate motivation to improve in preparation for the next season.
“That guy over there got better,” said Smart in reference to his quarterback seated at a nearby podium to his right. “He was a major factor last year… There’s a lot of guys that played last year that got better.”
Bennett’s improvement was significant. His total of 3,823 passing yards was 961 more than his 2021 total. His completion percentage increased from 64.5% to 68.1%.
Bennett is one of only two Southeastern Conference players since 2004 to have at least four consecutive games with 250 passing yards and one rushing score. Bennett owns Georgia’s school record for having at least 250 passing yards and at least one rushing score in five games overall during a season.
The sensational storylines created in nearby film studios are underwhelming when compared to Bennett’s journey.
Born and raised in Georgia, Bennett had his mind set on playing for the Bulldogs. However, he wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school and decided to accept a spot as a walk-on for Georgia. He would later transfer to Jones County Junior College to get some playing time until finally transferring back to Georgia upon being offered a full scholarship.
“You’ll be hard pressed to find anybody who loves the University of Georgia more than Stetson Bennett,” Smart said.
Bennett’s rise as a walk-on to his time in junior college to a full-scholarship athlete at Georgia is yet another testament to his self-confidence.
“I try to see things for what they are, and I don’t let people tell me what they are,” said Bennett. “I try to figure that out on my own. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
Bennett’s time as a collegiate football player will end Monday night, given his decision to enter the National Football League draft, but he will be remembered forever in the Georgia football record books. Records are the least of Bennett’s worries for now — he’s got a national championship to win.
“We’ve still got one more game left,” said Bennett. “And all that stuff will still be there after that if I do want to look at it eventually. But now’s not the time.”