A year ago, Bryan Bennett took the ball from Oregon’s starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and excelled in the second half against a lowly Colorado Buffaloes squad. Bennett accounted for three touchdowns and guided the then-No. 4 Oregon Ducks to a 70-14 victory at Autzen Stadium.
Fast forward 364 days and only the name on the back of the jersey remains the same for the quarterback from Granada Hills, Calif.
Bennett still wears green and yellow but for an entirely new school on the other side of the country. Now, he’s the starting quarterback for the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, a concept that a year ago seemed unfathomable.
Following Oregon’s 35-17 victory over Kansas State in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, Bennett took time to reassess his current situation. Though the material things, like the facilities and flashy jerseys, were nice, Bennett came to the conclusion that he wanted to be a team’s starting quarterback.
After spending the past two summers in Louisiana, Bennett came into contact with the coaching staff at Southeastern Louisiana University. With the idea of possibly transferring in his mind, Bennett decided to take a risk and travel to Hammond, La.
“I was going back and forth after the Fiesta Bowl and I decided to go out on a limb and check it out here and see if it was something I was ready to do,” Bennett told the Emerald in a phone interview this past Tuesday. “Even when I was out here I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay or come back to Eugene.”
Bennett never came back to Eugene, and on January 22, just three weeks after the conclusion of Oregon’s season, he announced that he would transfer to Southeastern Louisiana.
“I decided I was going to take this shot, transfer and make the best of it,” Bennett said. “It was a really hard decision.”
A change of this magnitude is in no sense an easy thing to accomplish. For the first time in his life, Bennett had to adjust to living in unfamiliar territory.
“It’s a different culture down here and for the first time I was on my own,” Bennett said. “That was a big change. It took some time to get used to, but I feel comfortable. I got to know the people and I got to know the city more and more.”
Through the 2,624-mile journey from the University of Oregon to Hammond, football has remained constant for Bennett. While transferring from a comfortable situation to a place with a laundry list of uncertainties provided much fear, Bennett believes his most recent performance for the Lions validated his decision to pick up his things and leave Eugene.
Last Saturday, almost a full year after his game against Colorado, Bennett led the Lions to a 56-34 win over Southland Conference rival Lamar University with two touchdowns and 332 total yards. The win improves the Lions to 6-2 on the season, eclipsing their five-win total from last season.
“That was something that made me feel like it was the right decision to give myself an opportunity to go play,” Bennett said. “Along with my fellow players and coaches, I feel like a big part in changing how things have been around here. It’s kind of cool to be a part of a change for a positive manner.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42