Honus Wagner came to Hancock College from Georgia.
The plan was to play two seasons before signing with a Division I football program.
It turns out, he only needed one season.
Wagner, a linebacker out of North Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia, signed with FCS program Gardner-Webb on Wednesday. The Runnin' Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb play in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, not too far from where Wagner grew up. Wagner has been home for awhile. Hancock has been distance learning since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March and the Bulldogs' 2020 season was canceled.
Wagner came to Hancock for the 2019 season and quickly became one of the team's top defenders. He had planned to stay the customary two years but, when the landscape changed amid the pandemic, Wagner found a perfect fit at Gardner-Webb.
"Really, I had had a change of plans when this pandemic hit," Wagner said during a Zoom video call to commemorate his signing a national letter of intent. "The plan was to come back in the fall and play my second season."
But Hancock's fall season never materialized and Wagner was offered by Gardner-Webb, which wanted him to enroll in January.
At 6-foot, 225 pounds, Wagner will play inside linebacker for the Runnin' Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb.
Hancock went 9-2 in Wagner's lone season in Santa Maria. He had 59 tackles (31 solo) and 9 tackles-for-loss. He also had two sacks.
What did Wagner make of his time on the Central Coast?
"It was definitely different," he said. "Down here in the South, we do things a lot differently. Coach (Kris) Dutra and a bunch of the guys would have chats and we'd tell him the tri-tip wasn’t as good as he says it is. It was definitely culture shock, but I adjusted pretty quickly."
Wagner was recruited by Ricky Aguilar, who is now on the staff at Lompoc High.
"From the very first phone call there was no doubt" about the type of player Wagner would become, Aguilar said. "Honus had the character, the drive and the will to want to do the right things, from day one."
Former Hancock head coach Kris Dutra and current head coach Seth Damron both spoke to Wagner on the call.
Damron told the story of Wagner's recruiting interest picking up after he had already verbally committed to Gardner-Webb. Wagner was torn between opening up his recruitment and sticking with his verbal.
"We talked about being a man of your word and how important it is in this day and age," Damron said. "The way he was raised by his family, it's clear Honus is a man of his word and he stayed with his commitment."
Gardner-Webb is a member of the Big South Conference. The Runnin' Bulldogs are scheduled to play Elon at home on Feb. 27.
Damron said Wagner is the 20th Hancock player to earn a scholarship to a four-year school and the Bulldogs had seven players sign with Division I programs.
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