After helping Georgia capture the national championship in January, Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett bet on himself and returned for another season in Athens. That gamble has paid off in the form of continued success for Bennett, who was given a national award on Monday night.
Bennett has been awarded the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given annually to the most outstanding FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on. Bennett received the award after a 13-game stretch in which the Georgia quarterback helped the Bulldogs go undefeated and clinch the top spot in the College Football Playoff.
Bennett beat out Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell and Troy linebacker Carlton Martial for this year’s award. It was part of a big night for Bennett, who earlier Monday was named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
“A special honor. Thank you, again, Marty and Miss Vickie. You know, this award is what it is because of who Brandon was and what he did, but people know his story because of you two, so thank you for that, “Bennett said to begin his acceptance speech. “Mama, Daddy, Knox, Luke, Maverick, Olivia, I wish the last two were here but I’ll see them probably over Christmas or something. I love you guys. I meant it earlier: I am who I am because of you , and I wouldn’t trade any of this for that. I don’t know if I said that wrong, but I love you guys.”
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) December 6, 2022
Bennett decided to use his last year of NCAA eligibility and once again play for the Bulldogs in 2022. That decision proved worthwhile for the former walk-on, who completed 68.1% of his pass attempts for 3,425 yards with 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while also rushing for 7 additional scores. Bennett had just under 10 more attempts per game in 2022 than he did in 2021, and his completion percentage stood as the best of his collegiate career.
Bennett will enter the playoffs off a very strong performance in the SEC Championship Game.
Bennett led the way for Georgia against LSU by going 23-of-29 through the air Saturday for 274 yards with 4 touchdowns — each of which went to a different receiver — and no interceptions. Bennett’s play helped the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 50-30 for the program’s first SEC title since 2017, and his performance earned him MVP honors.
Bennett’s story to this point has been well documented.
Bennett came to Georgia as a walk-on in 2017 and gained attention for his work on the scout team, particularly when he imitated Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield to help the Bulldogs prepare for the Rose Bowl. Bennett left Georgia after the season and transferred to Jones College in Mississippi, where he threw for 1,840 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Bennett came back to Georgia as a scholarship player in 2019 and appeared in five games. He took over the starting role early in the 2020 season before suffering an injury against Florida that opened the door for JT Daniels to take his place.
Last season, Bennett entered the year as the backup to Daniels, who was considered a Heisman frontrunner during the summer.
Bennett ended the year holding the College Football Playoff national title trophy as part of one of the most incredible stories in the sport’s history.
Bennett rose to the challenge for Georgia last fall and helped the Bulldogs end a 41-year national championship drought. Following a few days of speculation after the title game, Bennett announced he was using his extra year of eligibility to return to Georgia in 2022.
When asked about his decision to return, Bennett made it clear what the sport and the Bulldogs program means to him.
“I love soccer. I love this team. I love the relationships, all the things that it teaches you. I also don’t think I’m as good as I’m going to be, and I don’t think this team is as good as it’s going to be,” Bennett said on March 22. “It’s about the daily grind, the daily competition … Where do we want to be next week? Where do we want to be tomorrow? It’s those little goals.
“Shoot, why does anybody who’s ever won something do it again? Because it’s cool. So, let’s go do it again. Let’s see if we’ve got what it takes.”