It didn’t take long for Conner Carmack to feel right at home at Louisburg College.
The South Effingham senior punter signed with the two-year North Carolina school Friday.
“It’s small, and it’s a good atmosphere,” Carmack said. “Hopefully, I’ll learn and move on to the next level.”
Carmack made his first visit to the school two weeks ago and was scheduled to return for their signee day program Saturday. He said the environment there — the school has an enrollment of about 750 — suits him better.
“I didn’t want to go to a really big school,” he said.
Said his mother Lesley Carmack: “We know Louisburg College is going to be a very good fit for him.”
Carmack had looked at the University of Sioux Falls, Charleston Southern, Belhaven and Mississippi College. But even the prospect of playing college football took him by surprise.
“I never thought I’d be playing in college,” he said. “I didn’t play football until the sixth grade. Now that it’s here, it’s nice. It’s a blessing.”
In 2007, Carmack averaged 31.2 yards a punt as a senior, and 12 of his 31 attempts went inside the 20-yard line.
While his average belies a strong leg, Carmack has the ability to change field position in a hurry.
“Momentum can change,” said Mustangs coach Greg Manior, who played collegiately at North Carolina State. “A punter can be an important player for you. Conner did a good job for us. He can kick in any direction. He can get hang time. He can kick the ball out of bounds if we don’t want the other team to catch the ball.”
That Carmack signed a letter of intent is noteworthy, according to Manior.
“A lot of schools don’t sign punters,” the coach said. “They’re usually walk-on guys.”
Carmack has been punting since the ninth grade but quickly got the hang of it. He went to kicking coach Carol White’s camp and impressed the staff there.
“They said there’s not much more we can teach him,” said his dad Mark Carmack. “Each year in high school, he kept improving and kept improving.”
The Carmacks credited the Mustangs coaching staff for helping and working with Conner during his high school career, from coach Donnie Revell pushing him in the weight room, coach Tony Kirkland working with him and Manior tirelessly pursuing colleges on Carmack’s behalf.
“Coach Manior has really opened some doors,” Lesley Carmack said. “(He) has really taken the kids into consideration.”
Manior said he and his coaches make sure they make connections at the American Football Coaches Association convention. Smaller schools don’t have the recruiting budgets of programs on the scale of Georgia or even Georgia Southern, but there is still an opportunity for his players to play and get a good education in the bargain.
“It’s about getting the kids’ names out there. There are so many colleges out there that have football teams and have great academic standards,” he said. “You get to know where the colleges are. It’s a lot of phone calls and a lot of tapes being sent out.”
Carmack’s parents are glad that Louisburg is within driving distance — about four and a half hours — and he’s not going there alone. His girlfriend, Loralee Powell, has tried out for the women’s soccer team at Louisburg and made the roster.
“God has blessed him with a talent he can use later on,” said Mark Carmack. “I’m proud of him.”