Kanaya Charlton had no intentions of playing football until his mother told him he needed to use his size for something productive. Coming from an education first household, Charlton, a very bright student, focused more on academics at an early age and didn't get into football until middle school.
Now entering his junior year of high school, Charlton didn't start playing football until about four years ago and never watched football growing up.
"If you ever talk to her, she'll be the first one to tell you that I had no interest in playing football," Charlton said. "I was doing so well with my education that I just never thought about it. But one day she said I'm getting to big and I gotta do something. Every little bit of success I have in football I thank her for."
A straight "A" student for most of his academic career, the lowest grade Charlton has ever received was an 88 which he still hasn't gotten over. In four years, Charlton has gone from not knowing a thing about football to being recruited by the likes of LSU, Alabama and Clemson.
The realization that he could maybe football could help pay for his education really didn't settle in until the spring leading up to his 10th grade year in 2019.
"My ninth grade year, Auburn's o-line coach at the time came to my school and he called me over while I was eating lunch and offered me a scholarship," Charlton said. "I didn't know what any of that was, I didn't know recruitment and I started to realize I could go to college for free. I liked playing football so I realized that I could have fun playing football and it would pay for my education as well."
Florida State, Alabama, Clemson, Kansas and Kentucky were just a few schools to reach out to Charlton on Sept. 1 but he's also talked to the staff at LSU a number of times as well. Charlton received the LSU offer back in June and just couldn't believe that the defending national champs were interested in him.
LSU found out about the 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman through analyst Russ Callaway, who played college ball with Charlton's offensive line coach Garrett Grady. Since then, Charlton has built a strong connection with the LSU staff, speaking with coach Ed Orgeron, Callaway and offensive line coach James Cregg multiple times.
"Coach Cregg actually dropped the bomb that I got an offer from them and it was excitement, I was very excited, very honored, got off the phone and it was a wow moment for me," Charlton said. "I was surprised, enthusiastic, excited. I don't think there's a word that can describe how I felt.
"Coach O was telling me that it would be an honor for him to coach me and that was another wild moment."
Charlton's film and the way his offensive line coach Grady talked about him were the two biggest reasons LSU made him the offer.
"As a person and as a player he described me as somebody who is willing to do anything to win and I'm very coachable," Charlton said.
As Charlton enters his junior season at Brunswick High School in Georgia, there are a few qualities to his game he feels stick out above the rest. His strongest quality is down blocking but also feels he's greatly improved this offseason on his punch at the line of scrimmage.
"All of the college coaches who watched my film told me I needed to improve with the punch in my hands so I've worked on it for countless days and gotten better with it," Charlton said. "Just everything to do with my hands I've tried to work on. My feet are great for my size, that's what everybody says. I always say that if I wasn't this big, I'd be a track star."
Because he grew up in a household where education came first, Charlton had actually never really heard of LSU before a year ago when the program was lighting teams up on a weekly basis during its quest to a national championship.
He started paying more attention and many of his coaches and teammates were telling him to tune into the Tigers so he finally settled in and watched a few games last season. Outside of football, Charlton has a real fondness for science and learning how the world around him works.
"I think that my main focus will be science and biology but another thing that I discovered recently that I like to do, I like to cook for my family," Charlton said. "There's so much that interests me outside of football and I'm grateful for the opportunity that LSU and so many other schools are giving me to fulfill my dreams."
Charlton's overall thoughts on the LSU program stem from what he's learned about the school. Because academics are so important to him and his family he's researched what kind of school LSU has and is very impressed with what it has to offer.
"I know for a fact it's a very good program because it's a nice college to go to even if you don't play football," Charlton said. "That's what all of the coaches tell me, that even if you don't play football, it's one of the best schools to go to for academics where you're around good people. They support you know matter what and that makes you feel good."