FORT PAYNE — Fort Payne’s Carter Pinholster paused for a moment in thought and went through his list of deciding factors in choosing the right college to further his education and football career.
The senior wide receiver was looking for a place that felt like home, that was close to home. A place where he can compete right away, and somewhere with supportive coaches.
There was one school that filled all of the boxes on Pinholster’s mental checklist: Kennesaw State University.
“After all of the visits I’ve been on, their coaching staff really felt best for me,” Pinholster said during a phone interview with The Times-Journal on Wednesday.
Pinholster was joined by family, friends and coaches for a signing ceremony at Fort Payne High School on Friday, two days after announcing his decision on college football’s National Signing Day on Wednesday.
He took to Twitter with the thrilling personal news, saying, “After a long, exciting, stressful journey full of adversity, injury, ups, downs, and success, I have made my decision and have signed with Kennesaw. Four years ago, I never thought I would get this opportunity.”
Pinholster punctuated his social media message with the team’s acronym motto for effort, attitude and toughness. “But now, let’s E.A.T.”
“We are really excited for Carter and his future,” Fort Payne coach Chris Elmore said. “He has put a lot of time and effort into trying to be the best football player that he can over the last few years. He has spent many hours after practice on his own time trying to be great at what he does. It is exciting to see that hard work pay off for him.”
Due to few players graduating from the roster, Pinholster, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, was the Owls’ lone wide receiver on its early signing period class. He was one of 15 players to sign a national letter of intent with the program Wednesday.
“I think we’ve stepped it up a level with this group coming in,” Owls coach Brian Bohannon said. “We’ve touched just about every position. There’s a few left out there that we’ll finish up with in February, but we continue to build the lines of scrimmage on both sides of the ball which is critical to us continuing to move forward in the playoffs. Every kid in this class came here because they want to help us win a national championship and I think this group has the ability to take us to the next level.”
Kennesaw State, a Division I FCS school, went 11-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big South Conference in 2019. The Owls finished with a second-round appearance in the FCS playoffs.
Pinholster took two visits to Kennesaw State, once to watch the Owls play Charleston Southern on Oct. 12.
“I really liked what I saw. I really liked the offense,” he said.
The Owls ran a triple-option offense with a heavy dose of the run game. But Pinholster said the team is looking to add a stronger passing element and wants him to be a top receiving option.
Pinholster said Bohannon told him there will be one wide receiver spot up for grabs next season. Pinholster said he’s looking to claim the spot and make an immediate impact as a freshman.
During his senior year at Fort Payne, Pinholster was not only a primary receiving target on offense, but he was also one of the Wildcats’ most reliable defenders and rarely came off the field.
“He loves to compete. He will play as hard as he can on every single play,” Elmore said. “It doesn’t matter if he is blocking, catching a long pass or running the ball on a sweep or a reverse. He will compete every single play as hard as he can. He will also bring that same competitiveness to practice and will be full-speed every day on the practice field. He was a joy to coach for 2 years and we look forward to watching his future successes.”
Pinholster helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-3 record this season, including a second consecutive Class 6A, Region 8 championship and their first second-round postseason appearance since 2011.
Pinholster said he had a few other schools in consideration, including Tennessee-Martin, Troy University, Culver-Stockton College, Bethel University, Shorter University and Faulkner University.
With his career path still being mulled over, Pinholster said he has interests in athletic training and coaching.
“Like any other 18-year-old kid going into college, I have no idea what I’m doing,” he said with a laugh.