Now, after staying in the shadows, he's stepped out to take on the role:
"You don't want to step on any toes," Stafford said. "You've got guys that are seniors that have been doing it for a long time here. I wasn't playing good enough to be (the leader). I was just trying to go out there and play as hard as I could. Just get out there and show the guys I'mgiving everything I've got."
According to Georgia QB coach Mike Bobo, simply being the starting QB doesn't mean you're considered a leader among your teammates:
"Just because you're the quarterback, you're not going to gain everybody's respect as soon as you step under center. You grow it through the way you work and way you perform out there at practice."
Stafford earned the respect of his teammates by "putting the good of the team before individual glory last season. He gained more respect with the way he led the team through Sugar Bowl practices last season and his dedication this offseason with getting in the best condition of his life." Said Bobo:
"Here's a guy that was five star, had every award given coming into college and at a time of a lot of teams in college throwing it every down, throwing for a bunch of yards and a bunch of TDS, we've asked this guy to step into this role and give us the best chance to win."
This past spring, when UGA head coach Mark Richt asked his team to write down who they'd follow into battle.
"Stafford was on probably all but one or two," Richt said. "That's 105 to 130 guys. The players believe he's the leader of this football team. That's crucial when your quarterback does that. Matthew knows that's his role now."