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'I can't believe it.' Gainesville fans riding high after UGA’s big win
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Dr. Richard Bennett (middle), a Gainesville dentist and uncle of University of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, prepares for the game with his family. - photo submitted by Richard Bennett

Richard Bennett, uncle of University of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, said he felt immensely blessed watching his nephew succeed on the largest stage possible. 

“Thanks be to God for all the wonderful things He’s provided for our family,” said Bennett, who has been a dentist in Gainesville for more than 20 years.

His nephew received a rollercoaster of criticism and praise throughout the 2021-2022 season, and Bennett said he hopes Stetson’s story motivates others following UGA’s 33-18 victory over the University of Alabama Monday, Jan. 10. 

“It's been an up and down year, the hero one week and the ‘GOAT’ the next week,” Bennett said.

Stetson began his college career as a walk-on player at UGA in 2017 and took years before cementing himself as the starter this season, making for an unlikely hero to help the Bulldogs win their first championship in 41 years.

“What a tremendous example that is for kids and others, that you can't change what the good Lord gave you as far as your ability, but the part that you do control is work ethic,” Bennett said. 

He enjoyed the game in Indianapolis with several family members, including two of his brothers, wife and three sons on the 10-yard-line of one end, while Stetson Bennett III was seated elsewhere in the stadium with his wife to watch their son. 

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Stetson Bennett and his cousin Harper Bennett get ready to leave Indianapolis after celebrating University of Georgia's first college football championship in 41 years. - photo submitted by Richard Bennett

Other locals were in attendance with deep ties to UGA. Michael Perry, former football coach at East Hall High School arrived with his twin brother and two friends who all went to UGA, including Gainesville baseball legend Wayne Vickery

After a late fourth quarter interception by Kelee Ringo all but sealed the victory, Perry could hardly believe it. 

“I hugged Wayne Vickery probably 25 times, and I just kept saying out loud, ‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.’” 

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Former East Hall High School football coach Michael Perry watches the championship game with retired Gainesville High baseball coach Wayne Vickery. - photo submitted by Michael Perry

Three generations of Perry’s family have graduated from UGA, he said. Perry’s grandfather, George Law Jr., used to own a Lincoln car dealership in Gainesville and donated a car every year to Vince Dooley, head coach of the last UGA championship team in 1980, Perry said. 

“Just born and bred in it; grew up, went to school there. (It) just means the world to us,” he said. “They didn’t flinch. When things fell apart, they kept believing and kept playing.”

Shane Gaddy of Strong, Gaddy and Lee Wealth Management Group in Gainesville was surrounded by UGA alumni, even though he didn’t go to school there himself. His wife, Emily, even published a children’s book in 2015 titled, “Go Bulldogs!”

“I was glad that when we went, it was Alabama that we played,” Gaddy said. “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” 

Lucas Oil Stadium was loud with Georgia fans, Gaddy said. 

“Once the interception happened, and it really looked like it was in hand, there was a lot of tears in the stadium,” he said. “I looked over at my buddy … he’s still teary-eyed this morning.”

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Gainesville natives Shane and Emily Gaddy celebrate University of Georgia's victory in Indianapolis. - photo submitted by Shane Gaddy
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