This is a different guy. All the way around. He asked for cattle for Christmas a couple of years back. He has a herd of 20 now. That’s counting a donkey and all of his calves. Stockton was awfully proud of the CB radio he had in his pickup truck, but it is not working at the moment.
According to the Rabun County staff, they were once told by Clemson he was No. 1 on their board for 2022. He was the same No. 1 guy for the Bulldogs, too. Stockton tallied 113 scores through his first 26 high school games and added another 71 (45 pass TDs, 26 rush TDs) as a junior.
Even after he committed to South Carolina last fall before his junior season, the Georgia staff never let up. It wouldn’t be in any in-state school’s competitive DNA to do that, much less a literal recruiter all-star team of coaches in Athens.
With him choosing to play for the Bulldogs today, it is appropriate to revisit a few Gunner Stockton stories DawgNation needs to be ready to swap around at the water cooler soon.
Or in the subsequent tailgates to come when we are all back in the Classic City.
Gunner Stockton is now the anchor recruit for the Georgia class in 2022. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Gunner Stockton: The story to be told another 900 times
Stockton comes from a family of achievers and competitors. That’s the stock in Stockton’s game.
His father, Rob, was one of the greatest safeties in Georgia Southern history. Eagle fans still remember his No. 14 fondly. He was named to their athletic hall of fame in 2008. Rob Stockton started his last 48 games as an Eagle and finished with 322 career tackles.
Sherrie Stockton left her name high up among the all-time leaders at Erskine College as a scholarship basketball player. She is now a guidance counselor at Rabun County. She is her son’s counselor, too.
Gunner’s older sister, Georgia, is a sophomore scholarship basketball player at Presbyterian College. She was an all-state hooper at Rabun County. She averaged 21.1 points per game, shot 40 percent from behind the arc and 80 percent from the charity stripe.
Stockton’s laurels aren’t the only big deal at the supper table. That’s a good thing. He’d rather chat about trying to catch the biggest fish in Lake Burton.
Georgia Stockton was the first example of how their parents believed in a “circle of life” with their children. They searched for uncommon names that had a link to the family. Sherrie brought up a connection to a family member named “Georgie” when they named their daughter.
That line of thinking did apply to Gunner, too. It would’ve certainly been appropriate to name him that while dreaming of a rocket arm at shortstop or 184 touchdowns as a high school QB.
“Gunner has a family name, too,” Sherrie Stockton said in 2019. “Rob’s granddad was in World War II. Both of his grandfathers were. He was actually a gunner on the belly or nose of one of those planes.”
His great-grandfather passed away before he was born. The name was meant to honor him in the same way Georgia honored “Georgie” when she was born.
A newspaper article led to that first name. During that time, soldiers were identified in print as AirMan Jones or Gunner Stockton. “Gunner” Stockton served in the Eighth Air Force. That was the same squadron made famous by the “Memphis Belle” story.
“His great-grandfather was a togglier,” his uncle Allyn Stockton said. “They toggled off and on with the bombs. Part of his job was to pull the arming pins out of the nose of the bombs.”
Allyn Stockton said his grandfather completed nearly 20 missions with his squadron but was shot down at least two times. The newspaper account of his service time didn’t refer to him by his first name, but rather his role in the service.
“He was listed as Gunner Stockton and Rob was like that’s a really cool name,” Sherrie Stockton said.
That was always the plan.
“You know how it is,” his mother said. “When you are pregnant, I never told anybody about it. Because I said to myself I know I am naming him ‘Gunner’ and if anybody says anything ugly about it, it is going to make me mad and I don’t want any of that. So I never told anybody what his name was going to be.”
His great-grandfather’s name was actually V.D. Stockton. He was a district attorney in the Rabun County region for about 30 years. He was very well-known in the community.
It certainly seems like Rob and Sherrie found the right name choice with that audible to his military role.
“With all of that said, there was no way we were calling him V.D. with that name,” Rob Stockton said while cracking up.
When Gunner played baseball coming up with the East Cobb program, a coach who had also worked with Fromm noticed him. That coach even named him “Little Jake” because of the vast ability and poise he showed at an early age.
“It is funny how life goes like that,” Sherrie Stockton said. “We knew who Jake From was and had heard all about him before just about everyone else in Georgia did.”
Gunner Stockton. If you read those lines above, then you know where his unique first name now comes from. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
The very first offer for Gunner Stockton
The 6-foot-1, 214-pounder was launching balls farther than two future starters at Power 5 programs when he was in the eighth grade. That story traces back to the camp when North Carolina gave him his first offer.
When he was asked to go meet the head coach in his office, the family certainly wondered if they did something wrong.
Or broke something.
That camp singled him out for his arm strength and accuracy that day, but nobody was expecting an offer that soon. Appalachian State and Larry Fedora at North Carolina basically offered him at the same time.
It was right about the time Stockton ripped one 66 yards at that UNC camp that day.
Stockton has verified in-game clips from his sophomore season where the ball traveled 60 yards in the air. When he was clocked electronically in the 40 by one SEC school before his sophomore year, the readout was 4.72 seconds.
He’s that fast without any sort of real speed training.
The Gunner Stockton that does “unleash hell” on a field
The young Rabun County star had had back-to-back Fridays in which he ran he threw for six scores one week, then ran for five touchdowns in his next game. He had at least two straight weeks in 2019 where he accounted for seven touchdowns in a game.
That was all before his junior year. Those Friday nights where he rolls for 120 yards on the ground and throws for 250 more aren’t that special to Rabun County games anymore.
Stockton is, though. That’s evident by referring to more than just a stat sheet. The games, his Rabun County team and the way he carries himself come first.
If a camp or an Opening or an Elite 11 event is scheduled to interfere with his summer workouts and team responsibilities, he will likely politely decline to attend those things.
The same goes for spring and summer recruiting events or big 7-on-7 tournaments.
His father, Rob, delivered a strong opinion on what matters most here.
“I think a goal for our family has been for both of our kids to love the Lord,” he said in 2019. “I know that will seem like a cliche’ so much now but we pray that they truly love the Lord but not have to tell people about it. Do you know what I mean by that? Where they will just look at you and can tell that you love the Lord. By your actions and then just your spirit. Not their words.”
“They will know you by that when you are in the classroom or on the field. They just sense that something special about you. Not because of you. But a greater deal there. Who you follow in life. ”
But that does not mean a meek mind or spirit.
“With all that said, I have begged of him to be that when he is outside the white lines,” his father continued. “The kindest. The gentlest. The best friend. Opening doors for women and ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ and that’s him. Thankfully. But when you step across those white lines, then that is time to unleash hell. Be that person.”
Stockton has now rained down 184 touchdowns worth of hell, too.
“People that can flip that switch like that are out there today,” his father said. “I am thankful he is a person who can flip that switch. He is highly competitive, but when he steps off that field he is also so gentle and kind and even a little bit shy.”
Young Stockton did ask for those cattle for his 2019 Christmas. He wound up with a bull, five calves and five heifers. It became his after-school job.
His family didn’t know their son had been a part of 100 touchdowns until they saw that stat in a tweet during his sophomore year.
He also wanted a prized high-powered CB antenna for that Christmas of 2019. There’s a safe bet here that maybe 80 percent of his peer recruits in 2022 have never even seen a CB. They will not even know what it is used for.
“The one that I found isn’t too good,” Gunner Stockton said then. “Guess I found one online kind of cheap. My friends are all trying to get it so we can talk to each other.”
He was hoping that he could recruit more of his teammates to their Wildcat wireless plan. Not just the truck drivers around Tallulah Gorge.
The second-best Gunner Stockton story going right now
What’s harder to believe? A CB antenna or those stats?
A CB-freaking-antenna? That will be the first image a curious eye might spot when they travel to Rabun County High to visit Stockton.
He did have one attached to his ride. In a world where recruiters can learn a lot about a player from the last month of their tweets, Stockton shows off his cards with his vehicle choice.
Let’s look at this like an elite quarterback would. The easy check down would be a nice new vehicle. It would be the typical truck setup Fromm and former Rabun County Wildcat and Georgia Bulldog Charlie Woerner loved in high school.
Stockton bypasses that first read. His family name has also been on the big sign of a prominent car dealership in town. He could have had a choice set of keys from that lot, too.
But he once got all the way to his fifth read with his choice of a 1985 Ford pickup. Not the 2017 Ford F-150 he could drive all the time.
It was his grandfather’s old truck. That’s the one he romped around in when he was a squirt gun. Not a Gunner. The odometer reading now has to be over 300,000 miles.
“It is kind of neat to me,” he said of the truck in 2020. “I always wanted to drive it when I was little.”
Sherrie Stockton, left, and Rob Stockton, right, joined their son Gunner Stockton at the Touchdown Club of Atlanta awards banquet in January at the College Football Hall of Fame. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Gunner coach: Jaybo Shaw on Gunner Stockton
Jaybo Shaw has known Gunner his entire life. His father, Lee, both played and coached at Rabun County. Rob Stockton wore the same no. 14 that Lee Shaw did.
Jaybo signed to play QB for Georgia Tech coming out of high school but eventually transferred to Georgia Southern. That was where Stockton’s father starred and made his name.
He even wanted to wear Stockton’s No. 14 in Statesboro. There’s a picture of Jaybo with his arm around Gunner from his days as an Eagle.
“When you saw him in middle school and saw him throw the football,” Jaybo Shaw said. “It was just ‘gosh’ with all that. There were some decent 10th and 11th-grade quarterbacks in high school who could not throw it the way he could when he was in middle school. Especially when Gunner was in the eighth grade.”
He’s special. Shaw affirmed that with his own dose of humility.
The Rabun County coach was a former 3-star and the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat QB in 2008. Stockton said he grew up idolizing his current head coach when he was at Georgia Southern.
“There are throws that even when I was a senior in college and in the very best playing shape of my life that he’s making now as a sophomore in high school that I couldn’t make back then,” Shaw said in November of 2019. “It makes me feel glad that I get to coach him.”
Watching Gunner go through a Thursday ‘polish’ practice is uncommon. The ball seemingly never touches the ground on that walkthrough. Or it wasn’t on him if it did. He can make every throw.
“The ball is on the right hash and we’re throwing a deep comeback to the far-field,” Shaw says. “That’s in his wheelhouse right now. That’s very rare to find.”
Does Gunner need to grow anymore? That’s likely not necessary given the way college and pro football now trends with mobile passers like Baker Mayfield, Kyle Murray and Russell Wilson.
Stockton’s freshman tape was good enough to draw these big offers. Much less his 2019 and that gaudy 72 percent completion percentage and 62 (43 pass/19 rush) total touchdowns.
“I think what separates him is his competitive nature and his will to win,” Shaw said. “When he gets into one of those Power 5s he chooses everyone is going to have a good arm, good feet and be pretty good. They might even be able to run, but really what he boils down to is a ‘Give me the ball on fourth down and I promise you I will get it’ with him.”
Clemson once told Shaw that their 2022 board is currently Stockton and everyone else. West Virginia offered him after watching him throw two balls. They just see it when the ball comes out of his hand.
“Big boy stuff,” Shaw said.
Stockton doesn’t see it that way. The only time he gets on social media all week might be to tweet out thanks for his latest offer. Or today’s Georgia commitment. He does have livestock to feed.
He will sometimes send Shaw a text with a picture from the cam on the hunting trail.
“I mean this respectfully as his coach and quarterback coach with the world we live in today with Twitter and Instagrams and the media here,” Shaw says. “But in his eyes, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. He’s very guarded about not wanting to make a college decision during our football season. Very humble. Very guarded. As his head coach, you can’t ask for much more than that. It galvanized our locker room.”
That’s the Rabun County in him. He’s just a good ol’ country boy.
“Gunner is just not the type to get caught up in all the outside noise,” Shaw said.
Looking ahead here with Gunner Stockton
The goal is a state championship for Rabun County High School. The quest will be the same for him as it was Georgia freshman Brock Vandagriff with his senior year. Winning that elusive state championship.
“Multiple head coaches have said something that they love about him is that where his feet are planted is where he wants to be the best he can be at,” Rob Stockton said.
With Georgia, the feeling here is Vandagriff at UGA does not matter as much as most might think. The same goes for the long-term future of Carson Beck under center in Athens.
Stockton was once committed to South Carolina, but the best fit for him was always what feels like home. It has been a constant throughout three seasons of covering him up to this point. He was never going to let a talented player dictate his college decision.
“Who is at the school that they want to be at for years down the road and are where they are going to stay?” his father once told DawgNation. “That’s one of those things that are big to him.”
“I’m not looking at who’s there,” Gunner Stockton said in early 2020. “Like at Georgia, there’s always going to be a guy there. Or two guys there. Or the transfer portal. You just got to want to be there, fit that right fit wherever you decide it is and then go out while you are there and do the best you can.”
Stockton turns 18 in April. He is a January 2022 enrollee.
Check out the DawgNation highlights from his match-up with Brock Vandagriff from this past season.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)