The Jacksonville State linebacker was among 10 semifinalists in the running for this year's homecoming king. He missed the cut for the final five by one vote.
Who didn't cast? Among them, Gayton's roommate, quarterback Max Shortell.
"I forgot to tell everybody on the football team to vote for me," Gayton said. "I was one vote out for not making it -- one vote -- and my roommate didn't even vote for me.
"He was, ‘Like, man, I forgot to vote for you. I was like that's all right, I only lost by one vote. I gave him a lot of (grief) for that."
In Shortell's defense, Gayton's last-minute campaigning got a little
sidetracked. The final day to vote was the Wednesday before the homecoming pep rally and Tuesday was a typically hard practice for the Gamecocks with
nationally ranked Tennessee State coming to town.
"I was so tired after it I wasn't even thinking about the homecoming thing," he said. "I was going to stand up and tell everybody to vote for me, but it slipped my mind. I told the D-line and everybody -- they voted for me -- but I was one vote out of being in the top five."
Gayton was put on the ballot by his girlfriend's sorority and had only a few
days to prepare for the campaign trail. As part of it, he had to do a little
dance in front of the crowd and answer a question about JSU life blindly drawn from a fishbowl.
He had better luck in the game, making a tackle in the end zone to score the
Gamecocks a safety. He has been credited with 26 tackles this season, 5.5 for loss and three sacks. He recovered Ben Endress' blocked punt last week.
"I got the hardest question. My mind went blank," he said. "I just said, 'Come and support the JSU football team.'
"I don't like getting up in front of a big group of people. It's different playing football. I've got my helmet on and I'm focused on the game. I know the game. I don't know getting up there dancing in front of the student body."
Bryan Green, the son of JSU basketball coach James Green, was among the five who did make it. Kenneth Smith, a 32-year-old art major from Piedmont was crowned king. Kayla Haynes, a junior from Ringgold, Ga., was homecoming queen. Gayton said it would've been "a tossup" had he made the cut, but since his roomie didn't vote the point was moot.
As a junior, he always has next year.
It might be a good idea to start working to get out the vote now.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 255-235-3577.