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Stetson Bennett and More Seniors Who Will Go Down in Georgia Football History

Bulldog fans will always remember Kelee Ringo’s pick six. Credit: Mackenzie Miles/UGA Athletic Association

It doesn’t have to look pretty. Style points don’t count. The only thing that matters is getting the win.

Georgia beat Kentucky 16-6 on a cold, windy evening in Lexington to move to 11-0 and finish undefeated in regular season conference play. The victory makes Georgia the third SEC team in 30 years to finish consecutive seasons with an undefeated conference record. The trip to Atlanta for a showdown with LSU for the SEC Championship looms.

There are other matters that must be attended to first, though. Georgia Tech comes up to Athens this Saturday. Bragging rights and a perfect 12-0 record are on the line. Beat Tech, and it doesn’t matter what happens in Atlanta, just like last year. (Hopefully, we handle LSU better than we did Alabama the first time around.)

But the Tech game isn’t only about running the state and achieving a perfect record. Saturday is Senior Day, and this year we get to honor the most important senior class in the history of Georgia football. These dudes played through the COVID season, won a national championship and now have us situated to potentially pull off an improbable repeat. 

Since I began writing these columns, one of my hobby horses has been the fanbase’s need for new heroes. Because the 1980 team was our only national champion for decades, those dudes were the epitome of Georgia legends for decades. We’ve seen enough from Herschel Walker recently to know there’s always a time for growth and moving on. Thankfully, we have a whole slew of excellent players who may repeat as national champions and go down as the greatest Dawgs of all time.

I’m talking about dudes such as Stetson Bennett IV. I still remember the buildup to the Rose Bowl in 2017, when Bennett, still a walk-on, ran the scout team playing the part of Heisman-winner Baker Mayfield. Then-defensive coordinator Mel Tucker described Bennett as a “beast,” thus beginning the legend of the Mailman.

He’s had his share of highs and lows at Georgia, but the only thing anyone will ever remember is the highs. No one will remember how we all wanted to bench him about three times during his career. They’ll remember that dime to AD Mitchell in Indianapolis. I never thought I’d say this unironically, but he may be the greatest quarterback in Georgia history. Not the best, necessarily, but the greatest.

While Bennett will get the lion’s share of the glory, there are other, less-heralded members of UGA’s offense that deserve some praise. Kenny McIntosh waited his turn behind Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Zamir White and James Cook. He only got to play in spots until this year, when he emerged as RB1. He had the best game of his career against Kentucky, racking up 143 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Kearis Jackson is another player who doesn’t get enough credit. I’ll be honest, there have been times this season when I forgot he hasn’t graduated. But he has a knack for stepping up when needed, like a few weeks ago against Mississippi State. He’s been a shoelace tackle from returning a punt for a touchdown about a half-dozen times in his career, and I’m holding out hope he can still get one before he’s done.

On defense, Christopher Smith has held down the secondary for three years. It was his pick-six against Clemson last year that got the ball rolling on the title-winning campaign. His decision to return for one more season helped set up our defense with sorely needed leadership and experience. I don’t know if we’re in the position we’re in right now had he not come back.

Ditto for Nolan Smith. Unfortunately, his Georgia playing career is over after he tore his pectoral muscle. Note that I said “playing” career. Smith is still around, traveling with the team, encouraging and coaching his fellow outside linebackers. I wish he could play down this stretch run, but I’m glad he’ll still be a presence within the team.

A special shoutout to a couple of juniors who are pretty much guaranteed to make the jump to the NFL after this year: Jalen Carter and Kelee Ringo. Carter is the best player on this year’s team and was the best on last year’s team, too—which makes him one of the best to ever wear red and black. Dudes like him don’t come around often, so enjoy watching him with the Dawgs while you can.

Some plays get cute names when they go down in history. I’ve noticed that when people refer to his game-sealing pick-six in the national championship game, folks just call it “Ringo.” As in. “After Ringo, I cried like a baby.” That’s all that needs to be said of a play that legendary and a player that good.

Damn good Dawgs, one and all.