February 1, 2023


           Fame and fortune come with a cost. As a celebrity, when you are placed on a pedestal, encased in glass, your private and public lives are in full view. Sunday morning in Dallas, Stetson Fleming Bennett IV learned a most unfortunate lesson, thanks to his stardom and poor decision making.

            His arrest for public intoxication is embarrassing. As one attorney friend mused, “You could go downtown in Athens, on any given night, and arrest a busload of people for public intoxication.”

He’s right, but the difference is that Stet Bennett is the MVP quarterback of back-to-back national championship football teams. Many would argue that he is the most-celebrated player in Bulldog history. That puts the Heisman finalist in the upper stratosphere of UGA celebrities. Today the former Bulldog is in Texas training, anticipating the upcoming NFL draft.

When the news jarred the Red and Black awake, my phone lit up with texts and calls. My family and the Bennett family go back four generations. People assumed that I knew the details. For the most part, I am in the dark, too. What I do know is that the charge could have been worse if Stet had been driving and if there had been an accident.

Accused are presumed innocent until proved guilty. But no matter what the court decides, there’s the matter of a blemish to his incredible storybook rise to celebrity status. Beyond the possible NFL paychecks, hefty financial rewards await in product endorsements and much-talked-about book/movie deals. This misstep can be very expensive. Stet knows that.

I often think about what Dr. Charles Swindoll said. He believes that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react. What happened early Sunday morning is irreversible history.

What is crucial for Stet is to address—in a positive way—the remaining 90 percent. How Stet handles the Texas incident will define his future. If he can pinpoint 50-yard passes and scramble out of the clutches of NFL-bound defenders, he can survive this rush, too. The first step begins with a sincere attitude and saying some version of this: “I made a mistake. I know better. I can and will do better. I apologize to the University of Georgia, my former teammates and coaches. I apologize to my family, my friends and the millions of fans who believed in me. I let you down, and I hope that I can win your trust back. I promise that this won’t happen again.”

In my opinion, that how’s Stet can chart a successful course of redemption, but he’ll have to decide that for himself.

Another suggestion comes from my late snuff-dipping grandma, who was born in 1900. Nonetheless, I think her wisdom is still relative today. Nanny proclaimed, “Be home before 12 because the Devil rides with you after midnight.” Imagine how much recent heartache and pain could have been avoided in the Bulldog Nation if that rule had been followed. The hurt will never go away.

Stet proved, wearing No. 13, that he is a champion. Sure, he’s made some mistakes. Still, I believe he deserves another chance. I’m for little boys (and girls) making their dreams come true. Stet showed them how.

 This is my parting advice. Stet should study the lives of former college phenoms Johnny Manziel and Ryan Leaf. Unacceptable off-field antics caused both of their NFL careers to go up in flames, along with millions of potential earnings.

 If I were Stet—after Sunday morning’s misstep—I would take an indelible-ink pen and write “Leaf” on the back of my left hand and “Manziel” on the back of my right hand.

 With every glance down, I would vow, “That’s not going to happen to me.”

Good luck, my friend.