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Saturday August 8th, 2020 5:18AM

Local athletes get opportunity in the NFL

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

The ultimate dream of any football player is to play at the highest level. 

Four local athletes fulfilled those dreams over the weekend either being drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft or signed as an undrafted free agent

Rabun County's Charlie Woerner (University of Georgia) was the highest pick, 190th overall, to San Francisco. Gainesville's Chris Williamson (University of Minnesota) was selected 247th overall by the New York Giants, while West Hall's Hunter Atkinson (Georgia State) and Habersham Central's Mason Kinsey (Berry College) both signed free-agent deals.  

Kinsey inked with the Tennessee Titans and Atkinson gets to stay close to home with the Atlanta Falcons. 

Rabun County's Woerner (6-foot-5, 244 pounds) didn't catch a lot of passes during his career as a Georgia tight end, but his run-blocking grade of 82.9 from Pro Football Focus ranks him first among the 85 draft-eligible tight ends with 200 or more run-blocking snaps. Woerner was a talented blocker at Georgia and snagged just 34 passes for 376 yards and one touchdown. That lone TD came in his last regular-season game at Georgia Tech. 

“We are all so proud to call Charlie Woerner a Rabun County Wildcat," Rabun coach Jaybo Shaw said. "I don’t think you can really put it into words on what it means to all of Rabun County. Charlie has always gone about his business the right way whether it was on or off the field. Charlie is the ultimate role model for our young people in this community. We saw first hand how he represented Rabun County as a national recruit, then as a starting TE at a nationally known university and now as a professional football player. He has put Rabun County on the map so to speak. We are all so happy for him and can’t wait to watch him compete at the highest level.”

After leaving Florida for Minnesota, Gainesville's Williamson (6-foot, 205 pounds) made an impact in the twin city. Last season, he played in all 13 games -- started nine -- while recording 57 tackles -- 37 solo with four for a loss, 2.5 sacks and cashing in an interception for a touchdown in a historic season for the Gophers.

Gainesville coach Heath Webb said although he didn't coach him, he coached against him several times. 

"We’re happy and excited for Chris and his family," Webb said. "I was an opposing coach when he was at Gainesville and was always impressed with his play on the field. The members of my staff that coached him speak highly of his character. Chris being drafted is a great thing for our program. Very few programs can say they’ve got multiple players scattered throughout the NFL."

West Hall's Atkinson is somewhat a cinderella story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive tackle committed and early enrolled to play at the University of Georgia at a tight end, but a month later walked away. 

After taking a stroll through the workforce and clearing power lines for Georgia Power, Atkinson found his way back on to the gridiron, this time for Shawn Elliot's Georgia State Panthers. 

Current West Hall coach Krofton Montgomery was an assistant on Tony Lotti's staff during Atkinson's time at West Hall. He says he's super excited about Atkinson getting the opportunity to play at the highest level. 

"Hunter has shown how perseverance and trusting coaching leads to new paths," Montgomery said. "I keep in touch with Hunter, and it’s been awesome to see him grow so much as a man as well as a player. For our program, it’s a great sign to see someone that played recently and these players were in the stands watching, now getting his chance in the NFL. If you can play and opportunities are there, it’s about what you do with your opportunities." 

Kinsey, a former standout wide receiver at Habersham Central (5-foot-11, 187-pounds), finished his career at Berry with 3,343 yards on 203 catches and 50 touchdowns. He hauled in 1,221 yards on 65 catches and 16 TDs last season. 

Habersham Central coach Benji Harrison said he's extremely proud of Kinsey.

"I coached him my first year here," he said. "What stands out the most is his determination to be the best. He wasn’t afraid of competition and never backed down from any big moment.  He always played with a chip on his shoulder and loved going against the best player the other team would match up on him.  

It just means so much to our program. It’s a message to everyone in our program of what relentless determination can accomplish. Once a Raider, always a Raider. We just look forward to watching his future unfold."

 

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