Jaytee Swanson, Georgia born and bred, wasn't like the majority of his teammates when he arrived at Miami (Ohio) as a freshman.
The Redhawks' roster was filled with players from the Midwest, not the South.
"I think he took pride in being different from the other kids there," said Jess Simpson, Swanson's high school coach at Buford. "He was a country boy, driving a truck, listening to country music. He was different from them, but he's one of those folks that people gravitate to. He's very well-liked."
Not long after that arrival, Swanson's personality and his work ethic won over his new teammates. It was obvious over his career that the respect was earned, but it became more official prior to this season.
Swanson, now a redshirt senior, was voted as one of the Redhawks' permanent captains for this year's team. The linebacker was honored by the selection, which made it clear his teammates had accepted his Southern roots.
"I'm not bashing my teammates, but it's a different culture back home (in Buford, where his parents own a farm)," Swanson said. "I just like it better because I'm from there. Miami's in a rural area so there are folks like me, but I got to meet a new bunch of guys from big cities. Guys from Chicago, California, Cleveland, Cincinnati.
"I learned a little bit about the city and they learned a little bit about fishing and hunting. We found some middle ground, too."
Swanson even converted a few to country music, part of his off-the-field charm. But his actions on the football field have made just as big an impact for the Redhawks.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder (up from his freshman weight of 190) has worked tirelessly since his arrival. He took a redshirt season, then played special teams and was a reserve linebacker for the next two seasons. He broke through to make four starts as a junior, then won the starting middle linebacker this season.
He has 10 tackles in three starts and forced a fumble in Miami's loss at Boise.
"(Swanson's) been a program guy for them," Simpson said. "He's such a great kid, a captain kind of guy. He's very blue collar, very hard-working with a lot of enthusiasm. He's a great teammate."
Swanson and his teammates are off to a 1-2 start this season against a tough schedule that led to losses against Ohio State and Boise. They're hopeful to even their record today with a Homecoming game against Massachusetts.
It's the MAC opener for a team that has conference title hopes.
"You always want to win a MAC championship," Swanson said. "That's something you're always thinking about. Having won one of those already, I'd rather win 10 of those than go to 100 bowl games. You can't describe that feeling."
Swanson is on track to graduate in May with an academic focus in criminology and law. He isn't certain on a job track, but he is considering work with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
One thing is certain --the Southern boy is coming back to his roots.
"I'm definitely moving back to the South," Swanson said. "I love this town, but it gets cold up here."
Greater Atlanta Christian's Colton Chapple completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday in Harvard's 28-13 win over San Diego. ... Darien Lane of Dacula had six tackles, an interception and a pass breakup in West Georgia's game last weekend vs. Miles.
Tignor selected for conference honor
East Carolina punter and Mill Creek grad Trent Tignor was named the Conference USA special teams player of the week for his play last weekend in a victory over Southern Miss.
Tignor punted 10 times for 422 yards, dropped two punts inside the 3-yard line and placed another at the 14-yard line. He tied a school-record with seven first-half punts and also held for teammate Warren Harvey's 54-yard field goal and all three ECU PATs.
Heinicke earns trio of national awards
Collins Hill's Taylor Heinicke, a sophomore at Old Dominion, earned three national honors this week.
Heinicke was named a College Sporting News All-Star as well as the College Performance Awards National Quarterback and National Performer of the Week after last Saturday's huge game vs. Campbell. He also was the Colonial Athletic Association player of the week.
In the Campbell win, Heinicke threw for 486 yards and a school-record seven TD passes.
Another big game for Roby
Brad Roby's strong start to the Ohio State season continued last weekend.
The Peachtree Ridge cornerback had nine tackles (seven solos), two for losses, one sack and two pass breakups in the Buckeyes win over California.
Roby's 19 tackles rank second for Ohio State and his six pass breakups lead the team. He also recovered a fumble for a TD in Ohio State's season opener.
Brookwood reunion in Wake-Army game
Today's Army at Wake Forest football game will feature three former Brookwood teammates.
Josh Jackson and Jarrett Mackey play for the Army defense while fellow Brookwood grad Terence Davis is a wide receiver at Wake. It's possible that Jackson, a cornerback, could face off regularly with Davis.
The game is a 12:36 p.m. start and is scheduled for TV on WUPA.
Morrow gets Peach Belt award
North Georgia sophomore Megan Morrow, a Brookwood grad, was selected as the Peach Belt Conference defender of the week on Monday.
Morrow anchored the 11th-ranked Saints' defense the previous week in wins over Carson-Newman and Young Harris. She also scored the game-winning goal and assisted two other goals in the Young Harris game.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.