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Gaffney football's Brayshawn Littlejohn is living up to expectations of his last name

High school football in Gaffney, South Carolina — like in most towns in the South — is almost religion. But one thing that's unique for the fans and observers of the Gaffney High School football team is a quick rule of thumb they can use to see if the team will be good that year: How many players on the team have the last name Littlejohn?

In the past 12 seasons, the entire tenure of Gaffney coach Dan Jones, there have been 18 players with the last name Littlejohn listed on their roster, and when there  have been four or more Littlejohns on the team, Gaffney has won 81% of its games (51-12). When there are three or less Littlejohns, Gaffney wins 66% of the time (61-31).

Now correlation isn't causation, but for the people of Gaffney, the name Littlejohn has become synonymous with winning football games.

But what is it like to be born and raised in Gaffney with the Littlejohn name? Well, according to Gaffney football's next great Littlejohn, it comes with plenty of expectations.

Upstate football stand-out Brayshawn Littlejohn at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Upstate football stand-out Brayshawn Littlejohn at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

"It was a challenge because if you have the Littlejohn last name, everybody expects you to be something different, like do something crazy outstanding," said Gaffney senior linebacker, Brayshawn Littlejohn. "It's hard growing up with that last name, because people expect way more out of you.

"Not every Littlejohn is related. There's, like, different sets of us, but it's definitely a common name for a lot of athletes in the area. It's crazy because it's like the Littlejohn name produces athletes ... that do crazy stuff on-and-off the field, and it doesn't matter what sport, either," Littlejohn said.

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Jones can't answer why the Littlejohns are such good football players either, he's just glad it seems like they all live in Gaffney.

"Let's just say you better have some Littlejohns on the team or you don't have a great chance," Jones said. "It's a legacy name here in Gaffney for sure ... It's certainly a common name around here, and a lot of the time they're good athletes."

Upstate football stand-out Brayshawn Littlejohn at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Upstate football stand-out Brayshawn Littlejohn at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Pressure makes diamonds

It may have been difficult to deal with the pressure that came with growing up with that last name, but it seems not to have hampered Brayshawn Littlejohn one bit on the football field.

As a hybrid outside linebacker and edge rusher, Littlejohn led Gaffney in total tackles with 87, tackles for loss with 20, and sacks with 5.5, as the team went undefeated and won the AAAAA state championship over over Dutch Fork For.

"He makes it tough on offensive tackles when the offense has to throw the ball and block him. He's long, quick off the ball, and very aggressive as far as attacking the football," Jones said. "He plays the position in our scheme that we put our best player at because of what we ask him to do. He might play man coverage, he might rush quarterback or he might be the guy we expect to squeeze and spill a counter play."

Upstate football stand-out Brayshawn Littlejohn at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Upstate football stand-out Brayshawn Littlejohn at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

The 6-foot-2 unranked and no-star prospect wowed recruiters with 4.5 40-yard dash speed and large 220-pound frame, as well as his ability in coverage.

"The first camp I went to was the Anderson University camp ... There were some schools there that wanted to see me work out, like Tennessee Tech, North Greenville, and some others. So I went and I ran 4.55 and it was like, wow," Littlejohn said. "That's sort of when I started blowing up a little. I got an offer from Anderson that day, then Air Force and Army that Sunday."

Littlejohn attended three more camps this summer — Auburn, Florida State and South Alabama — and earned a total of 23 offers, including two from Power Five schools Colorado and Missouri.

"He's very deserving of all these offers, and I'm surprised there's not more ... in our defense, the position he plays: That's the best athlete," Jones said. "We don't understand why some schools are unsure that somebody that's 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and plays our most dynamic position, why they question whether he can play inside linebacker."

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This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Gaffney LB Brayshawn Littlejohn living up to expectations of his name