Back when he was a freshman at West Forsyth, Payton Dunagan knew that he wanted to play college football. He also knew that he wasn't going to get much bigger.
So Dunagan figured that his chance at a varsity spot was to dive into a specialized skill, his being long snapping. Four years and many camps later, Dunagan signed the National Letter of Intent that would make him a college football player on Wednesday at West's signing day ceremony. He'll join the team at Georgia Southern this fall.
Dunagan is the latest member of what has become an rich fraternity of Forsyth County long snappers in the college ranks, and he's the third to sign with Georgia Southern since 2012. He went on a circuit of college camps towards the end of his junior year, and when he went to Statesboro for a camp, he got an offer right then to be a preferred walk-on.
That's typical for long snappers. Getting a scholarship out of high school is exceedingly rare for the position, and Dunagan has no qualms about having to earn one. But there's also an atypical aspect to Dunagan's relationship with Georgia Southern: While a long snapper is usually the last thing a college football head coach wants to be thinking about, Eagles head coach Chad Lunsford happens to be the team's former special teams coordinator.
"I built a relationship with him," Dunagan said. "Not many snappers have a relationship with the head coach."
Other schools showed interest in Dunagan as well, including Virginia Tech, but the senior stuck with Georgia Southern in the end, committing on Feb. 1 and signing his papers on Wednesday, giving a hearty "Hail Southern" after doing so.
Six other athletes, including three of Dunagan's football teammates at West, also signed on Wednesday. They were:
- Blake Anderson, to play football at the University of Georgia
- Carson Davis, to play football at Brevard College
- Cade Vela, to play football at Davidson College
- Grace Anne Green, to play soccer at Harding University
- Sophia Peach, to play soccer at the University of South Carolina Beaufort
- Karson Rosenberger, to play soccer at Mercer University