As a sophomore at Berry High School in 2015, offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwyn broke his foot in the first month of the football season. He didn’t play again that year.
The summer before his junior year, Gwyn’s family moved into the Harding High district.
During a summer workout, Gwyn’s mother fretted to Rams coach Sam Greiner, wondering if her son could really be good enough to play football for a Division I college program. Greiner remembers shaking his head and smiling.
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“When he came in that summer,” Greiner said, “I knew he was good. He just had to believe in himself. His family was like, ‘So you really think he can go to a (Division I) college?’ I said, ‘It’s not even close.’”
As a healthy junior at Harding in 2016, Gwyn was dominant, as Greiner predicted. Gwyn averaged seven knockdown blocks per game and compiled 32 pancake blocks, a technique used to put an opponent flat on his back. It’s the lineman’s equivalent to an 80-yard touchdown run.
And Gwyn, who is 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, didn’t allow a sack all season.
“That kid is the real deal,” said former Ardrey Kell coach Joe Evans, now coaching running backs as an assistant at Myers Park High. “He’s very impressive physically. You see a kid that big and usually they’re just big ol’ lumbering kind of dudes.
“But he can move, man. He’s athletic. He’s strong. He’s quick. And he can run a little bit. That kid’s unique.”
Near the end of his junior season, N.C. State offered Gwyn a scholarship. He’s since received offers from Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, South Carolina, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and more than a dozen smaller schools.
Next month, Gwyn will attend the prestigious Nike “The Opening” Finals national combine in Oregon. Nike invited the top 166 players from a series of regional events, and Gwyn is one of seven N.C. players invited. He will be one of only five offensive guards to attend.
“We always knew how good he was,” Greiner said of Gwyn. “He never lost a 1-on-1 (blocking assignment) at these summer camps, and those are more of a defensive drill where (the defender) can just pin their ears back. But he dominates.
“We moved him from left tackle to guard last season and we told him he was probably an interior guy at the next level (college). And he took off. He’s special, man. Real special.”
Greiner said he expects Gwyn will emerge from the Nike national camp with an even bigger name on the recruiting trail.
“He is the only person from (Mecklenburg County) going and that is phenomenal,” Greiner said, “and he’s the only offensive lineman in North Carolina. That’s just crazy. But he’s not just going to go there and participate. That sucker’s gonna dominate. I expect him to be the MVP of the offensive linemen.”
Gwyn, 18, said he’s been surprised by the level of recruiting interest shown him. But perhaps he shouldn’t be so surprised. Greiner said Gwyn can bench press 400 pounds and has made a 9-foot, 4-inch broad jump. At the NFL combine in March, that measurement would’ve placed Gwyn in the upper echelon of all linemen tested.
“I’ve been putting in the work,” Gwyn said. “But I didn’t think it would blow up like it did. But I went to these camps and everybody at camp wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t do, but I think I showed them I could be an impact player.”
Greiner says Gwyn still has room to improve.
“He has something different about him,” Greiner said. “He’s a great gentlemen off the field. He will open doors for women. He’s a great person to talk to, great family, but if you put him in a room with 20 people and said there’s no other chance, there’s only one person that’s going to come out alive, you’re going to take that guy every time.
“He’s just different. He’s a special athlete.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr