In the moment, South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley just told his Tennessee counterpart, Jarrett Guarantano, to keep his head up.
That small act brought Bentley some attention in the moment last October, and Thursday it got him some recognition.
Bentley was given the men’s SEC Sportsmanship Award by a vote of the SEC’s 14 Directors of Athletics. The league's collective softball teams got the honor on the women's side.
“The stories of Jake Bentley and the SEC softball programs are stories of the kind of sportsmanship and compassion that is common across the SEC,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a release. “Empathy for others, even when they are your opponent in competition, is the definition of sportsmanship, and I am proud of this year’s recipients because they set a standard that is true to the values of the Southeastern Conference.”
According to the release:
"In a tight game in Knoxville, South Carolina took a 15-9 lead with 1:13 left to play. Tennessee freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano led the Volunteers to first and goal at the two-yard line with nine seconds to play, but threw three incomplete passes to end the game. As the Gamecocks celebrated, Guarantano sat dejectedly near the sideline. Bentley jogged toward him, bending down to offer encouragement to the first-year quarterback after a difficult finish. Bentley told him “it’s just one game” and he reinforced that Guarantano had played well. Bentley told Guarantano that he has a long career ahead of him as a quarterback in the SEC and he encouraged him to “keep his head up and move forward.”
USC women's basketball's Aleighsa Welch was the last Gamecock to claim such an honor in 2015.
“Jake is a great ambassador for the team and the Athletics Department, consistently representing South Carolina at events and in the media with poise, personality and grace in victory and defeat,” South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner said in the release. “After each game, he makes it a point to seek out the other team’s quarterback, to share specific conversation among his counterparts around the SEC as they share a brotherhood at one of the most scrutinized positions on the field.”