First half action from Arkansas State versus Georgia State. Photo: Dale Zanine

Georgia State’s Pinckney has big plans once healthy

Georgia State’s Sam Pinckney has one major goal for the coming football season. He wants to stay healthy.

Pinckney played in only three games as a freshman after suffering a knee injury as collateral damage in a collision on a fumble return. Then he had last season cut short after nine games when a teammate rolled up his ankle and broke his right foot in practice. He’s still rehabbing the injury and will sit out most — if not all — of spring practice. 

“I’ll keep working hard,” Pinckney said. “I’m determined to be the best I can and making plays with our guys. I’ll stay in rehab, do my work and come back stronger than ever in the fall.”

Once Pinckney, a sophomore, actually gets on the field, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound wide receiver has the ability to be a big-play threat for the Panthers. He showed such skills last year before being sidelined prior to the Appalachian State game. 

“Until he broke his foot, he was a real deep threat,” coach Shawn Elliott said. “He can go up high and bring it down and really puts pressure on the defense. I think he’s going have a big couple of years.”

In three games as a freshman, Pinckney had three catches, including a 55-yarder. In 2019 he caught 36 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns, which included seven catches and a 26-yard touchdown catch against Furman and nine catches for 120 yards and one touchdown against Arkansas State. He was good enough to be added to the midseason watch list for the Football Writers Association of America’s Freshman All-America Team. 

“He can go up and get it,” Elliott said. “I’d say he probably wins 75 percent of his battles.”

Elliott said Pinckney is sometimes even part of the conversation when he’s chatting with the opposing coach before the game during warm-ups. 

“They’ll come up to me in pregame and ask, ‘Who is that guy?’ ” Elliott said. 

Pinckney grew up in Greenwood, S.C., a small town in the state’s upstate region. He chose Georgia State because of Elliott, whom his brother, Jordan Gary, played for at Appalachian State. 

Pinckney was a three-star recruit coming out of high school, where he was rated as the No. 18 prospect in South Carolina. He had 2,678 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in his high school career and was chosen to the Shrine Bowl, the state’s all-star game. 

Pinckney is part of a deep, talented group of receivers that graduated only senior Devin Gentry. Also returning is junior Cornelius McCoy, a third-team All-Sun Belt selection who led the team with 70 catches in 2019, and junior Terrence Dixon, who played only two games in 2019 because of injury, as well as Jonathan Ifedi and Matlin Marshall.

Although he’s temporarily sidelined, Pinckney is pushing forward with his preparation. He attends all the meetings and has his own workout schedule and timetable for a return.

“I was disappointed, but I’m moving forward and staying positive,” Pinckney said. “I’m anticipating in my rehab, my individual drills. I’ll see how it goes and take it week by week.”

Elliott understands Pinckney’s desire to return, isn’t going to take any chances and needlessly rush him onto the field. The main thing is to have him available for the season opener. 

“Everybody wants to be back on the field as soon as possible,” Elliott said. “It’s tough to watch and when we think he’s ready, he’ll be back out there.”

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