The Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln High School standout is still awaiting his first major scholarship offer, but has a group of programs that includes Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Louisville, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and West Virginia giving him major attention.
Payton (5-10, 182) feels like an offer could be coming in the near future from Louisville, Kentucky, Miami (Ohio) and Kent State. He plans to either camp or visit those four schools in the next few weeks.
The sophomore-to-be is looking forward to the Friday Night Blue Lights camp at Kentucky on July 18. When he received the invite to the camp he was surprised and hopeful it will turn into an offer shortly after.
"The staff at Kentucky is looking at me as a safety," Payton says, citing UK's coaching staff as a big draw in his recruitment.
"I like UK. Everyone calls them a basketball school, but the football program doesn't get the credit they deserve."
Payton plans to bring his mother along for the trip to Lexington. He said if an offer emerges, the Cats would instantly become his favorite.
Payton is a teammate of 2016 target Jonathan Cooper. Kentucky is considered the favorite at the moment, but Payton noted that Ohio State is close to offering his friend and that it is his dream school.
Florida has always been a program that Payton admired. He once got to see "The Swamp" on a family vacation when he was 8. "I was like, 'Whoa. That's my team.'" He said he's always liked the blue and orange uniforms that the Gators sport.
"But I could see myself wearing the blue and white at Kentucky, too," he said with a laugh.
Payton has high aspirations for his college years.
"I want to be a Heisman finalist. I'd like to be the second player defensively to win it," he said. "There are a lot of coaches that can make that happen, but I also know Coach (Mark) Stoops at Kentucky can make it happen with all the DBs he has put in the NFL."
That, and winning a national championship, are at the top of his future goals.
Payton said UK's proximity to home could play a factor in his decision, along with other programs in the area. "I want go to a place where my parents can come see me play."
Don't expect an early decision, though. That won't likely come until his junior or senior season, he said.