JACKSONVILLE. Fla. - Take a peek into Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett's closet.
They say clothes make the man, that fashion sense reveals everything from personality and background to self-worth, priorities and work ethic.
And one look into Bennett's wardrobe tells a complete story.
"Oh, he's a really good dresser," said Kyle Manley, Bennett's teammate and roommate. "He's probably the best dressed kid on the team."
Maybe if he lived in Mayberry.
Bennett's idea of a designer label is Levi Strauss. He wears denim shorts 10 months a year in Atlanta's mild climate, and full-length jeans the rest of the year.
And his best suit is a color that goes with everything: White.
"It's pearl, actually," Bennett said. "My teammates definitely like to have fun with it."
So does Bennett. His lack of style reveals the understated confidence of a Midwesterner who knows how he performs in life means much more than how he looks doing it.
And that's why teammates have maintained a positive outlook for Monday's Gator Bowl despite the loss of veteran Reggie Ball. Bennett will start for Ball, who was ruled academically ineligible for 12 days ago.
BENNETT DOES NOT inspire the same confidence with Yellow Jackets outside the locker room. He is in his third year at Georgia Tech, and many fans are wary of his ascension to starter.
Comments regarding Bennett the past two weeks are all a variation on the same theme: If he wasn't good enough to supplant the erratic Ball over the past three years, how good can he be?
Bennett turned out to be the most promising quarterback in the Yellow Jackets' 2004 recruiting class. Ball's emergence as a star during his freshmen season in 2003 scared off recruits unwilling to wait three years for a chance to start.
Yet the situation was perfect for Bennett.
"We saw it playing out just as it has, with Taylor getting plenty of time to learn behind Reggie," said Patrick Nix, Georgia Tech's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Bennett needed the time and the patience of Georgia Tech's coaching staff. He struggled with the smallest details at first.
"He fumbled it 28 times a day it seemed like. It would drive you crazy," Nix said. "Literally, you couldn't let him take any snaps because you couldn't get any practice in. And if he did get the snap, he'd drop the ball before he had a chance to hand it off or throw it."
Nix and Bennett joke about those days now, just like his teammates rib him about his wardrobe. The ability to laugh at himself - even make fun of himself - demonstrates another valuable Bennett asset: Humility.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GEORGIA TECH VS. WEST VIRGINIA
1 p.m. Monday - CBS-Ch. 12