03/24/06 — Warriors' Gagnon signs with N.C. Wesleyan

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Warriors' Gagnon signs with N.C. Wesleyan

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 24, 2006 1:47 PM

Heading into his senior season at Eastern Wayne, center Ian Gagnon knew he would have to learn a new position if he was going to have a chance to play college football.

College centers aren't generally 5-foot-9, 190 pounds -- Gagnon's current stature.

During a preseason camp in Charlotte, sponsored by the Carolina Panthers, Gagnon did just that. During workouts at the camp, he learned the techniques and responsibilities of a linebacker ... stopping the run, dropping into coverage on pass plays and roaming the field as the quarterback of the defense.

On a Warrior team with depth at the linebacker spots, he didn't get much time to test his new-found skills, though he worked his way into the defensive rotation when the opportunity presented itself. Plus, he was being counted on to be the anchor of Eastern Wayne's offensive line.

Still, his versatility impressed the coaches at Division III N.C. Wesleyan, who are giving Gagnon a chance to play at the next level.

"I'm just not big enough to play center in college, so I decided to try linebacker, which seemed to be a good fit for me," he said. "I knew I was going to be the starting center, but I rotated in at linebacker when I could. It may have only been five plays a game, but I tried to make something happen when I was in there. Coach (Jeff) Price and coach (Steve) Moats gave me that chance."

Gagnon, a co-captain as a senior, believes he will be up to the challenge of switching to defense. Over the past year, he's improved his agility and speed -- dropping his 40-yard dash time by nearly one second from 5.8 to 4.8. All the while, he's maintained his focus in the weight room and still has some of the best numbers in Eastern Wayne's strength program with a 305-pound bench press and 635-pound box squat.

"He was a leader in our strength program. Plus, you love having players in your program that are genuinely good people," Price said. "It's satisfying to see the good guys succeed and get the opportunity to play college football."

Gagnon said he garnered interest from several small schools in the Northeast, but decided on Wesleyan (located in Rocky Mount) due to its proximity to home. His father, Brian Gagnon, who is retiring from the Air Force in May after 20 years of service, and mother, Janice Gagnon, are both going to remain in the area upon their son's graduation in May.

"My father and I both visited the college, and we were both impressed with program," Gagnon said. "They know where they want to go. The football program has only been around for two years, and they set a record for wins as a first-year program (in 2004). It looks like the next four years are going to be years they can challenge for a championship."

Under head coach Jack Ginn, the Bishops are a respectable 8-10 in their first two seasons of existence.

Gagnon wants to major in business administration and marketing with hopes of getting into the advertising field.