Gunner Stockton: The big ‘little thing’ he does while hunting down all-time state passing records

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This entry is about a cool thing Gunner Stockton has done each week en route to breaking all-time Georgia state records once held by Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson.

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Gunner Stockton has been doing a lot of record chasing and breaking this fall. Georgia’s All-American QB commitment in the 2022 class has put together the finest season of a stellar prep career this fall.

He’s now only 855 yards shy of Lawrence’s state all-time career passing yards mark of 13,902 yards. Stockton is very likely to overtake Watson this week to move into No. 2 all-time on that leaderboard.

Watson had 13,077 career passing yards in his time at Gainesville High. Stockton currently has 13,048 yards and his Wildcats (10-1) are alive in the second round of the GHSA Class 2A state playoffs this week.

Rabun County faces a Jeff Davis team that is 10-1 for the season. The Yellow Jackets were the No. 2 seed out of Region 2 this fall.

It has been quite a year. Stockton’s average Friday night has meant 321 passing yards, 4.5 touchdowns and 71 rushing yards. He’s averaging 17.3 yards per completion.

Yet in the midst of all that record chasing, it seems important to note an instance where Stockton got caught this year.

The future Georgia Bulldog QB was found doing something that Todd Monken, Kirby Smart or anyone who follows the red and black would be proud of.

All-American QB Gunner Stockton of Rabun County High School is a 2022 commitment to the University of Georgia.
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Gunner Stockton: The big little story about Mr. Record Breaker

Stockton was caught with his teammate Will McCraw cleaning up the Rabun County locker room at some point last month. It was on the Wednesday of a game week.

DawgNation has been told the Rabun County locker room has been kept clean the entire season. It appears the Rabun County seniors and team leadership core has been doing that in waves all year long.

Doug Young, a custodian at the high school, is a military man. He retired after 26.5 years on submarines in the Navy. He appreciates the work that the boys have done in that regard to keeping their locker rooms this season.

He’ll notice it on rainy days.

“Especially on those days when they will be on the grass and they will track a lot of grass and a lot of water into the locker room,” Young said. “It will be all over the floor. Gunner and some of the other seniors will grab dust mops and other mops and clean it all up. I remember Gunner saying there’s no reason this room should be this messy or messy at all. I appreciate it. I told them they didn’t have to do it but I appreciate it nonetheless.”

“They just told me kind of that they always want to do the right thing. Straighten it up some. I just thought it was really nice of those young guys to do that.”

Young said he’s usually not around when the boys finish up football practice in the evening.

“I will come in the next day and I will walk in and like ‘Man, this place doesn’t look too bad’ because it still requires some cleaning but nothing near what you would expect from after practice and all,” he said. “I don’t think they do it after every practice, but they have said they will look around afterward and if it looks really bad they will make the effort among all of them to straighten it all up some.”

“They really like to keep their place clean and to help their janitors. I’m not their only janitor. There is me and another guy. They just want to do their part to keep it clean. These are just really good guys on that team.”

The commodes and urinals still need to be cleaned. Those areas need to be mopped. That’s about it.

“They will pick up garbage off the floor in the main area and they will sweep up all the grass that got tracked in,” he said. “It saves me time.”

It was at that point Young brought up something from his military background.

“You know what General Patton said don’t you?” he said. “He made his troops polish their boots, blouse their pants and wear their neckties a specific way. He’s famous for answering the question of why do they pay so much attention to the little details? He said ‘If I can’t depend on them to do the little things, how can I depend on them to do the big things like win battles’ with that. They are paying attention to all the little details and they are taking care of business.”

Do footballers clean up better than a man in the service?

“They are headed in the right direction,” Young said. “They have all got a good heart and are very well-mannered young men. As a retired military man, I see a lot of good in these guys. They are on the right path on and off the field as far as I’m personally concerned.”

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Gunner Stockton scrambles in a game against Jefferson High School(Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Gunner Stockton: What about this Class 2A ball stuff?

There are a few scouting viewpoints out there to discuss with Stockton.

Is he too short? Stockton is going to likely measure a little over six feet when he reports to Athens. He probably won’t be much taller than the 6-foot-1 mark, if that. If so, then that’s already a couple of inches taller than QB1 for the unbeaten top-ranked team in college football at this time.

He’s tougher and more put together than Grandpa’s 40-year-old two-door Cadillac. He’s doing some Yoga, gaining some flexibility and will likely time around 4.7 seconds on the laser in the 40.

There have been instances this fall where Stockton has taken some big shots, including big games against Class 4A Jefferson and Class 3A Pierce County.

It has shown that his talent level does translate past Class 2A ball in Northeast Georgia.

Stockton’s best game prior to this year came against current Georgia freshman OT Amarius Mims and Bleckley County in the 2A playoffs a year ago. He topped that this year at Pierce County. That was the home of the defending Class 3A state champions.

The future Georgia QB led his Wildcats to a 28-21 road win in South Georgia against a top 3 team. That’s something that he had yet to do at Rabun in his historic career. There were tough season-ending playoff losses to teams well below Atlanta like Callaway, Fitzgerald and Thomasville to that point.

“I told Gunner on Sunday after we got done watching the tape,” Rabun County coach Jaybo Shaw said. “I just thought he was elite in a lot of different categories. Did he make every throw? No. There’s always stuff we can get better at. As far as the pressure of the game and going on the road five-and-a-half hours away and facing a top-ranked team that knows how to win and a top-rated defense, I thought his situational football was excellent. The clock management. Not having to be the home run shot every time we throw the football. Or don’t take the sack and just throw the ball away.”

Shaw kept using one of Kirby Smart’s favorite terms in that assessment.

“In those critical moments, I thought he was elite,” Shaw said. “We didn’t turn the ball over against a top-rated defense. We never put our defense in a bad spot. In a game like that, a punt is not necessarily a bad situation if we pin them back there and make them go the whole field. He managed the game at an elite level, but then there was that something else there also.”

That “also” points to what he tells Stockton every Friday night.

“You don’t have to be Superman every snap,” Shaw said. “But if there’s a Superman opportunity, then go be Superman. I think that he took that to a T. He did that when he needed a big-time play. He delivers and he delivered there. He was very elite in a lot of different ways.”

Stockton’s toughness and his ability to roll in between the tackles tend to lead to quick-trigger Tim Tebow comparisons.

“When it comes to how he can lead a football team and all the other things off the field I think it is a great comparison,” Shaw said. “When it comes to quarterback play, I don’t think he is like that. Of course, I am not the guru of quarterbacks but if you ask Gunner what he wants to do whether it is take off and scramble and make those, I don’t know that Kyler Murray-type play or what, that’s not it. He wants to sit back there and run an offense and be that guy who can make every throw and just understand the pressure he will put on an opposing defense. If you want to play man coverage on third down then somebody better be able to run with Gunner and also be able to bring him down in space.”

“He has that threat of being a very powerful runner running behind his pads, but I don’t think he gets enough credit for being elusive. Is he going to be a 4.4 guy? No. But if it is third-and-6 or third-and-8 and he has to make a guy miss to get a first down, I’m going to take Gunner Stockton 10 out of 10 times.”

Shaw thinks that part of that Tebow parallel is fair.

“But his arm talent is elite,” Shaw said. “It is the best I’ve ever seen. The best I’ve ever been a part of. Sometimes I do think everybody kind of describes him as getting out of the pocket and scrambling and doing a lot of different stuff. But when he’s got time and he’s got some explosive receivers he can throw that ball wherever he wants to.”

That Pierce County game was against a top 3 South Georgia team with a strong defense. That was a new feat in recent Rabun County history, including a state championship appearance when Stockton was still in middle school.

“A couple of the throws I think back on from that game,” Shaw said. “All of them were pretty much on third downs. You hear no matter what level of football that you’ve got to win on third down and you’ve got to keep a drive alive. There was one late in the ballgame. Pierce had just made it a one-score game and it was getting late into the third and we had to have our offense go answer.”

“He leads an 80-yard drive, eats some clock off and throws a ‘Go’ ball on third down we convert. It was supposed to be a comeback, but he and his receiver were on the same page. He converted it to a ‘Go’ route and Gunner just drops it right in the lap of the receiver against tight man coverage against a good corner.”

Stockton and his receiver did not make that adjustment at the line. It came during mid-play. That comeback route at Rabun County goes to 14 yards of depth. The coaching point is to break it off and come back to the ball at 12 yards.

Stockton noticed his receiver Jayden Gibson had beaten his man off the ball and they converted it in the midst of the play.

It was that timeless “if he’s even, then he’s leaving the DB behind” coaching point.

“I’m very thankful-blessed-lucky that I have a quarterback be able to do that sight adjustment with a receiver on a route in the middle of the play,” Shaw said.

There was another third-down conversion. The average fan or scout might deem it to be another Stockton highlight. Maybe one of 450-or-so he’s put together in high school.

Stockton stepped into the pocket. Got hit right under the chin. Still delivered the crossing route on target.

“It was right there on a 3rd-and-6,” Shaw said. “We keep the chains moving and three plays later we score a touchdown. There were some things in that game where you don’t see him get out of the pocket too fast. He trusted it. Stayed in the pocket. Knew he was going to get hit and deliver a really good football to one of our receivers.”

The All-American also converted a 4th-and-2 at the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter in Blackshear.

“If we don’t get it, I am an idiot,” Shaw said. “I ended up rolling the dice and we put it in Gunner’s hands. It was just a quarterback power play. He ends up getting 16 or 17 yards on it on a fourth-and-2. There were just so many little moments like that of that ballgame.”

It was the sort of game that the young man that now holds all these cherished Georgia high school records should be able to do in a big ballgame. Not just pad stats.

“Honestly there and I told my brother Connor [Shaw] this, I thought that was the best football game that Gunner Stockton has ever played as a Rabun County Wildcat.”

Let’s take another glance at his career stat line found on MaxPreps.com. We were able to update the number of times in which Stockton has now passed or thrown for:

  • 5 touchdowns or more in a game: 29
  • 6 touchdowns or more in a game: 21
  • 7 touchdowns or more in a game: 12
  • 8 touchdowns in a game: 3

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with UGA names like Jake Fromm, Gunner Stockon and Brock Vandagriff here.

Georgia commits Gunner Stockton (left middle) and Griffin Scroggs (right middle) were in attendance at the Georgia-South Carolina game as a priority recruit on Sept. 18, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell

Gunner’s Game: Two other views on the future Bulldog

Stetson Bennett’s III, the father of the current Georgia QB, was in Blackshear that night the Wildcats took down Pierce County. His twin boys are senior stalwarts on the team.

He knows a little something about the right amount of fight and talent in a small school QB coming up. What did he think of Stockton’s game?

“What a great kid,” Bennett III said. “What a great football family. I had met his parents Rob and Sherrie when Stet was at Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern had offered Stet way back when. Just a great family. Clearly, I don’t want to ever lose a ballgame, but Gunner was a warrior that night.”

“One of my seniors, my twin seniors, had a play where he hit Gunner probably about as hard as he’d ever been hit in his life that night. It was the last play of the first quarter and it was a completed pass. There are about 25 seconds left in the quarter and he ended up taking the quarter instead of snapping the ball. He got hit pretty dog-gone hard. The kid is just real tough. He’s got a linebacker’s mentality in a quarterback’s body.”

Bennett’s son, Knox, can hang clean 335 pounds. He is a stout athlete that tallied has five sacks in a game.

“I was very impressed with his toughness, his skill set and he can do it all,” Bennett III said. “We put some pressure on, we hit him hard and he got up and kept fighting and he did a really good job against us.”

Bennett said that Stockton’s football IQ and preparation are clear. That’s one of the chief intangibles in his son. He said he saw Stockton checking in and out of plays at the line.

“Those two are football people from football families,” Bennett III said. “Gunner is just a super solid kid. You just love his story. As a Georgia season-ticket holder since 1996, that’s where I graduated, you just love hearing about another kid coming to play quarterback at Georgia with a story like that.”

Marcus Washington Sr., the former Georgia Bulldog linebacker, is an assistant at Grovetown. He was on the field when Stockton smashed Watson’s total touchdown last month.

His son, Marcus Jr., is already a hyper-fast CB commitment for Georgia in the class of 2023.

“Once I popped the film on, the first thing that came to mind was toughness,” Washington Sr. said. “Tough kid. You don’t pop the film on a lot of big-time quarterbacks and see him running guys over. Even in high school. He’s a big kid. 6-1 and 220. 225-ish. That is some incredible size for a quarterback. He runs hard and is not afraid to run behind his shoulder pads when he is doing it.”

That was the first read off the tape. He even saw him do a jump pass as Tebow would have let float back in his day.

“Then as you continue to watch that film you see that he has a big arm. A big arm. He can really launch that thing. Then you get to the film and see him in person and he is as advertised. Every bit. Playing against him and coaching against him, you learn he’s a really great improviser. The play is never over until it is over with him. He keeps his eyes downfield and resets in the pocket and gives his receivers time to work in the pocket and he can find them and then he can throw them open as well.”

Washington said a 45-to-50-yard ball with accuracy was no problem to Stockton. Even on a broken or an ad-lib play.

But he was also impressed with the composure and leadership Stockton shows on tape and on film.

“Kudos to his offensive line as well,” Washington said. “Those guys do an absolutely amazing job of making sure he has that time he needs in order to make those plays. Rabun County is running a really good football program up there.”

George Bobo, the father of the longtime Bulldog QB and offensive coordinator, has been training Gunner since he was six years old.

It was nothing to see Gunner fling a ball 30 or 35 yards in the air back then. That’s how that arm strength was already flashing at an early age.

“You have mixed emotions playing Gunner this year,” Washington Sr. said. “We are a rebuilding program at Grovetown. You want your guys to go out and compete and do their best and show up very well. You point to a good team like Rabun and tell your guys this is what you want to be. What you want them to achieve to be a team like that. But when that game is over and especially after a few days, you think about Gunner being on his way to Georgia. Being a former Georgia Bulldog, you are definitely like I am glad that guy is going to be slinging it for the ‘Dawgs in the near future.”

“And then with MJ, you know he is going to have to see him every day in practice when he gets up there. Iron sharpens iron. So that’s good. Gunner is going to make him a lot better.”

All-American QB Gunner Stockton of Rabun County High School is a 2022 commitment to the University of Georgia.
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

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