Cleveland South’s Payne picking up interest from top college programs


Cleveland South QB Devontae Payne has scholsrship offers from Akron and Toledo. Expect more to come.

When a Senate League player lands a major Division I football scholarship, the assumption is clear: The kid must be from Glenville.

That has generally been true. But there will be one large exception in 2009.


When a Senate League player lands a major Division I football scholarship, the assumption is clear: The kid must be from Glenville.

That has generally been true. But there will be one large exception in 2009.


That large exception will be a large quarterback – 6-foot-6, 240-pound Cleveland South senior Devontae Payne.

Payne performed brilliantly last season, throwing for 2,963 yards and 26 touchdowns in leading the Flyers into the playoffs. It marked just the second time a Senate League team aside from Glenville qualified for the postseason (East High reached in 2000). Payne was far from shabby as a sophomore, either, firing away for 1,2765 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has tossed just six interceptions in two years.

College scouts have noticed. Among the schools that have shown interest in Payne are Ohio State, Michigan, Bowling Green, Toledo and Akron. The latter two have already offered scholarships.

Among his many attributes is his intelligence. Payne sports a nifty 3.0 grade-point average, which South head coach Jarvis Gibson believes allows him to thrive.

“You have to be a smart kid to play quarterback in our system,” Gibson says. “About 80 percent of the calls are made at the line of scrimmage. Devontae is very good with his checks and reads. Plus he has a cannon for an arm.”

Indeed. Payne won a long ball contest at the University of Kentucky by heaving one 77 yards. He also placed first in a “rapid-fire” contest, which tests the ability of quarterbacks to throw quickly and accurately. And his 4.7 clocking in the 40 is quite remarkable considering his size, which is generally thought of as better suited for a defensive end.

In fact, Payne has played defensive end for South, but is concentrating almost exclusively on his quarterback duties this season. Still, he is often mistaken for a kid who plays just about anything but quarterback.

“Most people see me and ask, ‘What do you play – defensive end? Tight end? Wide receiver?’” reports Payne. “No one asks me if I play quarterback.”

But, boy does he play quarterback. And he plays it with far greater confidence and capability now than he did as a sophomore.

That vast improvement is not simply the result of maturity. It is the residue of learning about all the physical and mental aspects of playing the position.

“You watch films of me from my 10th grade year and you can see that my capability has increased over the years,” he says. “That’s come from a lot of throwing and a lot of hard work in practice. Plus I like to go to other games to watch quarterbacks the same age as me or older to see what they can do.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot better reading defenses and in my footwork. My whole game has improved, including my arm strength and my accuracy, but I still need to work on my footwork and speed and agility and accuracy.”

Gibson believes he also must work on his leadership qualities. Payne is simply a quiet kid who prefers to lead by example, but the quarterback position requires a bit more of a vocal leader. His coach is hoping Payne shows a willingness to take more of a verbal approach this season.

“The biggest thing he needs to overcome is that he’s very reserved,” Gibson says. “When I want him to get vocal and rally the troops, he wants to do it by example.

“The thing is, since Devontae was in little league, he’s always been the biggest kid. He’s never had to follow behind someone, so he’s never been exposed to that vocal leader. He was starting for us at quarterback since he was a sophomore. So he’s still working on those qualities.”

Payne is well aware of what is coach is looking for, but admits that he struggles with it. He finds if difficult to change his personality.

“I try to lead by example,” says Payne. “Verbally, I’m not real good at it. I try to go through the personalities of my teammates. People have different styles and I try to find the kind of motivation that works with each person.”

In the meantime, Payne will be fielding scholarship offers and looking to attend a school with a strong sports management or sports medicine program. His career is taking off – never mind that he doesn’t play for Glenville.

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