COVINGTON, Ga. — Legendary football coach Vince Dooley wasn’t the only Auburn alumnus on the edge of his seat cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs Monday night.
Covington resident Larry Beasley was at his home wanting the Bulldogs to win the 2022 National Championship. He specifically wanted Georgia’s quarterback Stetson Bennett IV to excel.
Stetson IV is Beasley’s grandson.
“There aren’t many reasons for me to stay up to 2 o’clock in the morning,” Beasley said. “It was nerve-wracking [watching the game], but I knew Stet was ready for it.”
Beasley and his wife, Shirley, have lived in Covington for many years now. They have two daughters, Leslie and Denise. who both grew up in Newton County.
Both daughters are alumni of Newton County High School with Leslie graduating in 1986 and Denise a 1990 graduate.
Denise, Stetson IV’s mother, currently resides in Blackshear, Georgia, in Pierce County.
There, Stetson IV grew up to play football for Pierce County High School where he threw for more than 9,000 yards and 95 touchdowns.
“The Pierce County football PA announcer would always say, ‘Stet will make coffee nervous,” Beasley recalled.
Even though they live in Blackshear now and own a business, the Bennett family have come to the Beasley’s home each year to have what Denise called, “Christmas in Covington.”
Denise stressed how special the holiday gatherings are at her parents’ home, but this year something extra special happened.
Stetson IV and his family gifted Beasley, who they call “Pop,” a red Bennett IV football jersey.
Usually, with Beasley being a die-hard Auburn fan, there’s some teasing banter back-and-forth. Denise Bennett told The Covington News that wasn’t the case this time.
“There wasn’t any joking then,” Denise Bennett said. “There was some choking up, and I think the first thing he said was, ‘I’m wearing this to church on Sunday.’”
There has been no confirmation as to whether Beasley donned the gifted jersey to Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Covington but, one thing’s for sure, he was wearing it the morning after the Bulldogs won it all.
Beasley was given the jersey two days after Georgia defeated Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl to officially stamp its ticket to the national championship game. It also gave UGA its rematch with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Bennett finished the Orange Bowl completing 20-of-30 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns.
It was a long road for Stetson IV to get to this point in his career, though.
Upon his high school graduation, Stetson IV walked on at Georgia but, one year later, he transferred to Jones College in Ellisville, Mississippi. After completing a year at the junior college, Stetson IV signed with Georgia to become a Bulldog again.
He then began the 2020 season as a backup to D’Wan Mathis but finished the year starting. In 2021, Stetson IV was a backup behind JT Daniels but, again, the former walk-on finished the season in the starting role. This time, the season ended on the mountaintop of the college football landscape.
Even still, in the weeks leading up to the championship game, many people and fans were doubting and questioning Stetson IV’s ability to be “the guy” on a national championship team.
But that didn’t deter Beasley’s confidence in Stetson IV.
With his grandson under center for Georgia, Beasley became a proud supporter of the football team’s success — something he would have never imagined years ago.
Graduating from Auburn in 1963, Beasley was accustomed to cheering “War Eagle” when watching college football on Saturdays.
As a matter of fact, Beasley was so against Georgia that, even when his two daughters attended the university, he wanted no affiliation with the Bulldogs.
“I paid every bill in cash,” Beasley said. “They have not got my name anywhere on the records at Georgia.”
According to Denise Bennett, it’s been fun to watch her dad change his fandoms the past few years.
“He loves his alma mater,” Denise Bennett said. “But he loves his grandson more.”
Beasley concurred, stressing that he’ll only wear UGA memorabilia “if it has Stet’s name on it.”
Stetson IV’s name will now forever be inked into the history book of Bulldogs football after becoming the first quarterback in 41 years to help deliver a national championship to the Classic City.
Georgia won it all, largely due to Stetson IV's heroics in the fourth quarter.
In the final seven minutes of the National Championship, the former walk-on went 4-for-4, threw for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Stetson IV’s Offensive MVP performance helped close the deal to down the Crimson Tide 33-18.
For someone who has been highly criticized for most of his collegiate career in Athens, it did “Pop’s” heart good to see his grandson respond to the skeptics on the biggest stage in college football.
“It was wonderful watching him play like that in the fourth quarter,” Beasley said with a huge smile on his face. “Particularly with that [40-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell], I thought, ‘Yay! Go Stet!’”