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
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
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.