ATLANTA — Luke Bennett had narrowed down his options to three choices: Florida State, Georgia and New Hampshire.
The first two possibilities came as a preferred walk-on and the third was a scholarship. However, only one of those schools could give the 5-foot-11 wide receiver a season he would never forget.
A chance to play with his older brother, Stetson.
“A year of playing with ‘Stet,’ I couldn’t give that up for nothing,” Luke told the Post Thursday during the College Football Hall of Fame’s Peach Bowl media day. “I was given the opportunity and I ran with it.”
Due to their six-year age gap – Stetson is 25 and Luke is 19 – the Bennett brothers had never played on the same team, making this season all the more memorable. After helping Georgia win its first national championship since 1980 last January, Stetson has added this year to its hard-to-believe underdog history. The unique walk-on, Georgia’s version of “Rudy,” set career highs in completion percentage (68.1) and yards (3,425) while producing 27 total touchdowns (20 through the air) and finishing fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. And Luke was there.
Before each practice, the brothers from Blackshear, a town of 3,500 in southern Georgia, give each other a high-five by crossing each other at the 50-yard line before joining their respective position groups. Occasionally, Luke will catch a pass from Stetson. More importantly, they’re living together this undefeated season, Stetson’s final year at Georgia and Luke’s first.
“It’s awesome,” said Luke. “We played a lot of ball together in the garden, but never a real game or even practiced together. It just reminds you of the good old days.
Stetson added: “I wouldn’t say a miracle, but it almost is. It’s super lucky.
Some would describe Stetson’s journey, within two wins of becoming the rare two-time national championship-winning quarterback, the same way. He started his career in Georgia as an extra, went to college, and returned to SEC school after nearly signing with Louisiana-Lafayette. He was JT Daniels’ replacement last year at the start, but after Daniels suffered an oblique injury that kept him out for a few weeks, Stetson Wally Pipp replaced him, taking over for good.
Stetson, nicknamed “The Mailman” because he once wore a U.S. Postal Service hat at a demo camp while in high school, took some time to think about it this week. If he were to go through all of this at the same time, he probably wouldn’t be sane, Stetson joked. He admitted to disliking some of his trainers at times, believing they held him back on purpose, an opinion Kirby Smart did not necessarily disagree with.
“He overcame so much,” said Georgia coach Smart. “He defeated us. We didn’t put the guy there. He came to meet me and he wanted more reps. We tried to give him more reps. Every spring game he went to with the 3, he was successful. It’s like what more can the guy do?
Even without a second title, Stetson will go down in Georgian tradition as the quarterback who got the Bulldogs through after 41 years. Who defied the odds as an under-recruited, under-qualified prospect, no one gave much of a chance. It’s a role Luke finds himself in now, trying to rise through the ranks in a sea of elite recruits. He doesn’t believe there’s any added pressure on his brother’s footsteps in Georgia. There is inspiration, however.
“He’s a great person to look up to,” Luke said. “It’s motivating, it makes you humble. You learn a lot from him.