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'He did what everyone thought he couldn't do' | Stetson Bennett's high school football coach reflects on UGA championship

Hailing from Blackshear, Georgia, Bennett has hometown pride – and his hometown has pride in him too.

PIERCE COUNTY, Ga. — It is one of the most engaging images of college football history: Georgia native Stetson Bennett's emotional display of happiness on the sidelines after an interception sealed the Bulldogs' first national championship title in 40 years.

The quarterback gave his hometown Blackshear a shoutout on national television, showing his deeply rooted Georgia pride.

For Bennett, this victory was years in the making and Peach State-made.

The athlete was an all-state high school quarterback in Pierce County in southeast Georgia. He was good enough to walk onto the University of Georgia's football team and good enough to win a national championship Monday night.

Much of the game was a struggle for Georgia's quarterback but Bennett led a late touchdown drive. He watched from the sideline as a Georgia defender sealed the game with an interception and touchdown, showing it takes a team's effort to make a championship-winning team.

Bennett's high school coach, Sean Pender, said all of the quarterback's supporters could feel the pride at that moment.

"That emotion that he did, that pride – that's what I felt watching him perform, and watching him – just having faith in him, knowing he could do what he did," Pender said.

Pender said he felt like he was right there with Bennett. After all, he saw Bennett work toward this goal firsthand.

"I definitely teared up. I had tears in my eyes. But they were the tears of joy, of excitement. To watch this young man – just talking about it right now, I got chills in my arms. the emotion is still there," Pender said.

Pender said Bennett had taken a season's worth of criticism from fans, from sportswriters and did what he always aimed to do.

"Stetson went out there and did what Stetson does best and that is: prove everybody wrong," his former coach said. "He did what everyone thought he couldn't do."

With a college national championship under his belt, questions now loom if a professional football career is in Bennett's future. Pender said it's a strong possibility.

"Yes, you've got to have certain athletic skill sets. Absolutely. It has to be there," Pender said. "But the ones that are really successful are the ones that can think, that can process information quickly, and he can do that."

And if he doesn't, Pender predicts Bennett will be successful in business or whatever else the athlete decides to pursue. 

But he knows Bennett will do it with some hometown pride.