Introducing the 2004 Class: Jeremy Payton

Eye popping stats and impressive game tape, are the most common factors that help a football prospect receive a scholarship offer. Sometimes, it comes down simply to being at the right place at the right time. Such is the story of Jeremy Payton, who recently sat down with DevilsDigest to discuss his recruitment by the Sun Devils and other topics.

Roughly a year ago, wide receivers Jeremy Payton and Nathan Kimbrough decided to unofficially visit Tempe. "Nate was going to visit ASU because that's the only offer he had at the time," said Payton who was a postseason All-American selection by PrepStar Magazine. "He said he was probably gonna commit to Arizona State. They made a good impression on me, and my dad wanted me to go to Arizona State. I didn't have an offer from them, but we decided that I would go on the trip with Nate, show them my tape, and get to see the campus."

The result of this summer visit was the ensuing commitment of this duo, which marked the first two members of the Sun Devils' 2004 class. "At the end of the visit," Payton recalled. "Nate said ‘I'm coming here. I just need you to come with me.' I told him that if ASU offered I would commit. They offered me at the end of the trip, and two days later I committed." Payton added that ASU was the only school he considered visiting unofficially that summer.

Payton played both as a defensive back and wide receiver, and was twice named all-state, once on offense and once on defense. Oddly, it was the prestigious CaliFlorida game that convinced him which side of the ball he wanted to stay on. "That game was the first time I only played on defense," he explained. "I realized that defense wasn't as much fun as offense. Playing wide receiver, you're more in control. You're playing proactive, not reactive like on defense."

Ever since his junior year, ASU was looking at him as safety prospect, while schools such as Colorado, Arizona, Oregon State, Colorado State, Nebraska, and Texas viewed him as a cornerback. Once again, luck was on his side when he wanted to cement his position change with his college of choice. "In January, Coach Koetter told me that between me and (safety and fellow freshman to-be) Myrio Davis, one of us was gonna play wide receiver. I told him that I rather play receiver, so it worked out."

Usually, the earlier a recruit verbals the harder the recruiting pressure from other schools can be. Giving a commitment some seven months before signing day, such as Payton did, garnered that exact result. Nevertheless, thanks to his family the wide receiver was able to at least deflect the phone calls. "My dad is a very straight forward person," Payton commented. "So when schools would call I would tell my dad which ones I wanted to talk to. Oregon State was the first one to offer me, so out of a respect I took their phone calls. Any other school, I told my dad to tell them that I'm done recruiting, and there's no point calling anymore… once I went to Arizona State I knew that's where I wanted to go. I didn't find one thing wrong with it, besides the heat. But I rather be hot than cold (smile)."

The Beavers were not only actively recruiting Jeremy, but also twin brother Bryan Payton (Both brothers were Co-Defensive Players of the Year in the all-C.I.F Southern Section Division VII). They were clearly the only school that could have changed Jeremy's mind "I considered going to Oregon State because of my brother," he said. "When he officially visited Arizona State, I sat down with Coach Koetter. He wanted to know if I was still committed, and that if I were committed I wouldn't take a trip to Oregon State. I told him that's fine with me and that I wasn't gonna visit them. That was two weeks before signing day. My brother went on that trip without me, and that's where he ended up."

"That probably surprised me than anyone else," continued Payton. "After his trip to Arizona State, he said ‘I coming here.' He said he was going to take the visit to Oregon State just for fun, because he only took two trips (until then). He went there and changed his mind. I wanted us to play together. We're each other's competition, and that's why we got to where we are. It's gonna be hard without him. But you have to move on."

The Sun Devils' freshman to-be was South Hills High School's Co-Most Valuable Player, in a season where his team was 13-1. During that senior season he collected 54 catches for 907 yards and nine touchdowns, and was the league's Most Valuable Player on offense. On defense, he amassed 43 tackles and seven interceptions. "I don't buckle under pressure," he said as he assessed his skills. "If the game is on the line, give me the ball and I'll do what needs to be done – no questions asked. I need to work on my focus. Sometimes I lose focus if the game drags on, and I can get beat. I also want to work on my footwork."

Payton feels that until he gets fully conditioned, he would probably be better suited as a possession receiver. "But after the summer when I get back into shape and get my speed where it should be I could stretch the field." Having that speed proficiency is something he believes is vital for success in Dirk Koetter's offense. "In this offense, they like to stretch the field a lot, play three and four-receiver sets, and test the defensive backs a lot. They throw 60% of the time, and aren't afraid to throw deep."

Even though Payton comes across as a humble and intelligent individual, he does admit that his raging success on the football field did bring about some undesirable behavior. Nevertheless, he's proud to say that he was able to put everything in perspective, and become the down to earth person that he is today. "My English teacher said that I was the most changed student this year, " said Payton who is academically qualified. "At the begining of the year, I acted stuck up thinking I was better than everyone. At the end of the year, I realized that football isn't gonna last that long, and once I leave high school I'll be just another freshman player starting all over. So I dropped it down a littlie bit, and realized I had to work to do."

The wide receiver will be in town later this month for the school's bridge program, as well as participating in the school's off-season conditioning workouts. He downplays the possible difficulties in adjusting to life away from home, but states that having his good friend Nate Kimbrough around can only make the process easier. "I can do the whole transition from California to Arizona," he said. "It's no big deal. But it's nice coming down here with a friend. You can always make friends, but it's nice that you can count on that one person you already know. You know that you can always trust them."

With not much quality depth in the wide receiver core, Payton, Kimbrough and Michael Jones could all avoid the redshirting their freshman year. That would be sweet music to Payton's ears. "The coaches said that if I can come in, learn the offense, and be physically able to play on that level – I'll play. If they feel that I'll only play ten plays a game, they'll redshirt me and save the year…I'm OK if they redshirt me because that gives me time to get better, and I'll have more eligibility. If it's up to me, I'd rather play right off the bat." Payton has already shown that he has good luck and good timing on his side. That just may come in handy for him and the Sun Devils in the 2004 season.

Recruit Profile


Jeremy Payton

High School

South Hills HS (Covina, Calif.)







Date of Birth



Camp Pendleton, San Diego, Calif.


"All Hands."

Favorite TV Show

""One Tree Hill."

Favorite Movie


Favorite Singer/Band


Favorite Food


Favorite Drink

"Dr. Pepper."

Favorite Athlete

"Tracy McGrady."

Favorite Pro Team

"Orlando Magic."

Person you most admire

"My dad. He won't let you give up no matter what. I didn't like it at the time, but now I realized that he helped me a lot."

First Football Memory

"First day on the varsity team. I was a sophomore, and we were walking down this hill. In front of all the juniors and seniors I tripped down and fell down the whole hill (smile)."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"I like country music."

Why did you choose ASU?

"It felt like a family with all the players and coaches."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"I would like to be on the L.A.P.D's S.W.A.T team."

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