COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley and each of the SEC softball teams have been awarded the SEC Sportsmanship Award.
"The stories of Jake Bentley and the SEC softball programs are stories of sportsmanship and compassion that are common across the SEC," said Commissioner Greg Sankey. "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."
Bentley provided arguably one of the more memorable moments in college football last season during the Gamecocks' matchup at Tennessee. With his team up 15-9, Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano failed to complete what would have been the game-tying touchdown with nine seconds left giving Carolina the win.
Following the play, Guarantano sat on the turf in disbelief. Bentley went over to his freshman counterpart, helped him up, hugged him, and gave him a few encouraging words. It's a moment that has been seen on Gamecock Football's Twitter account over 64,000 times.
"Obviously, I was excited we won," Bentley said. "It was a big, big win for us. I happen to turn around and see him and just immeidately thought he needed some encouragement. We put on our helmet and we put on our shoulder pads the same way. Being another quarterback, too, I know what he goes through on a daily basis. It's very stressful at times, a lot of pressure put on us. So, I just wanted to give him encouragement because I know how losing a game can be and what goes along with that."
"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," said South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner. "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."
The SEC softball teams were also named recipients of the award. Mississippi State launched its "No One Fights Alone" campaign bringing awareness to ovarian cancer as freshman outfielder Alex Wilcox battles the disease. Some teams responded by having moments of silence to honor those who are fighting cancer or wearing teal uniforms, ribbons or batting practice tops. Some teams also displayed Wilcox's name on their helmets and pregame gear, wore bracelets with Wilcox's name and "No One Fights Alone" written across them. Some teams also displayed a video about Wilcox produced by Mississippi State.
"We have been humbled by the outpouring of support from our SEC softball community," said Mississippi State head softball coach Vann Stuedeman. "Every school touched our hearts as they reached out in support of Alex, our MSU softball family and our 'No One Fights Alone Campaign.' The strength that we have drawn from your prayers and encouragement is the definition of the SEC - It Just Means More. We are grateful."