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Stetson Bennett, Hendon Hooker prove age brings wisdom


“Maturity,” Stetson Bennett mentioned lately, by the use of tribute to his teammates on Georgia’s offense. “We’ve bought mature guys.”  

He ought to know.  

Truth is, not many gamers in college football are as mature as Bennett, each when it comes to psychological method, and the unavoidable incontrovertible fact that by the standard requirements of tertiary training, the Bulldogs quarterback is a fairly outdated dude. 

Bennett, a sixth-year senior who’s nonetheless slinging a couple of faculty pigskin as a result of mixture of a redshirt, a COVID-exemption and a “goodbye-hello once more” switch jaunt, lately celebrated his twenty fifth birthday with an early night time, earlier than downing Florida the following day to maintain the Bulldogs rated No. 1 within the nation. 

He’s older than some National Football League quarterbacks. Scratch that, he’s older than a ton of NFL QBs. He’s older than Justin Herbert, who’s already a longtime star, and Jalen Hurts, who’s giving the league MVP award a shocking shake. He’s simply a few months youthful than Kyler Murray, who was chosen first in an NFL Draft that occurred 42 months in the past. 

He was born in the identical yr (1997) as Lamar Jackson, who has been round lengthy sufficient and is nice sufficient that his subsequent contract figures to land him shy of 1,000,000 bucks per week. 

Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields are younger sufficient that Bennett might need stolen their place within the lunch line had they gone to highschool collectively. Trey Lance, the second-year starter for San Francisco till his harm? He’s a mere child by comparability, at 22 years outdated. 

Georgia has benefited from Bennett’s wizened methods and veteran’s philosophy over the previous couple of seasons, his nous and level-headedness a bonus head coach Kirby Smart has been grateful for on a weekly foundation. Experience beneath middle is all the time a assured edge for the Bulldogs, till, perhaps, this week. 

For as Georgia prepares to tackle No. 2-ranked Tennessee in what can solely be described as the most important blockbuster of the season to date – a 1-vs.-2 humdinger in Athens – the man on the brink of make performs for the opposite aspect, additionally undefeated, has seen and completed a lot, too. 

Hendon Hooker, now broadly considered a Heisman Trophy favourite, can also be in his sixth season of faculty ball, and, like Bennett, has gone by way of adversity and battle. Hooker is aware of that in a season of alternative for the Volunteers that is the most important showcase of all, until victory results in even greater events forward. 

Hooker will probably be 25 in January, which naturally means he’s one other who could be proper at dwelling, age-wise, in a fireplace chat of NFL signal-callers. For what it’s price, Bennett is older than 16 QBs who’ve taken snaps this season. Hooker is older than 15, solely Carolina Panthers backup Jacob Eason coming between this weekend’s rivals on the birthdays listing. 

Before this breakthrough season highlighted by an exciting win over Alabama that Tennessee would possibly by no means cease celebrating, Hooker battled by way of 4 years at a Virginia Tech program that was in flux, then another in Knoxville that gave first indication of the dramatic rise to come back. 

He’s discovered his place and located his most well-liked goal, precocious receiver Jalin Hyatt, and he’s discovering weekly appreciation from the Tennessee teaching unit too, after 21 touchdowns and only one interception on the season. 

“We have that sort of bonding rapport now the place we will name something,” Vols QB coach Joey Halzle advised reporters. “He trusts that what we’re placing within the sport will make sense after which if it doesn’t work for both one, we will pull it. Which makes it quite a bit simpler to game-plan on the entrance finish.” 

As for Bennett, he walked on at Georgia, transferred away to Jones County Junior College, got here again to deputize Jake Fromm, gained the beginning job, misplaced it and gained it once more, and was even linked with a switch away after successful the nationwide championship final yr.  

He’s nonetheless round, clearly, with the reasonably distinctive really feel of a participant who might quickly boast an unbelievable resume of twin nationwide titles and whose NFL Draft prospects are climbing, but nonetheless has a Rudy-esque sense about him. 

“Well, he was a bit bit higher than Rudy, I’ll say that,” Smart mentioned on Duke basketball icon Mike Krzyzewski’s Sirius XM present earlier this yr. “What does it say about his character that he caught round and he saved working to get higher? That’s what you’re imagined to do in life, overcome hurdles and obstacles.” 

The tales of Bennett and Hooker are a pleasant reminder in a manner, that faculty soccer shouldn’t be, and was by no means imagined to be, one dimension suits all. That it’s a place to develop, and that the expansion doesn’t should occur abruptly. 

If, amid the dizzying flurry of relocations that proceed to happen by way of the portal, a reality emerges that faculty soccer stays a spot the place the dips in a participant’s profession arc might be ridden out and realized from, that’s no dangerous factor. 

If the potential of second and third probabilities for many who thrive a bit later, or take time to search out their optimum spot, means the likes of Bennett and Hooker ultimately get their second, the sport wins. 

This weekend, although, solely certainly one of them can. 

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the creator of the FOX Sports Insider e-newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter. 


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