Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast wide receiver Tristan Payton got another taste of what Southern California is all about after spending last week practicing and playing in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. And he gave USC fans a full serving of his abilities with his MVP performance in the Sunday night contest at the StubHub Center.
“It feels pretty good,” Payton said of being named MVP. “Being coached
by the Marines all week, they prepared me for this. They’re teaching us
leadership abilities. Not only making us a better athlete, but making
us a better man. So that’s a great thing.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound USC receiver commit caught three passes for 101
yards, including a pair of touchdowns in the often-offensively
challenged 24-3 East victory over the West squad.
“I had been out to Cali twice before I came out this time, so it just
felt at home when I came out again,” Payton said. “Just getting used to
the Cali lifestyle.”
In a game that featured only 10 plays of 15 or more yards and just six
of those plays going for more than 20 yards, Payton had two big impact
Before the game, Payton said he planned to go out, “do what I do and
show ‘em what Tristan Payton is about. What USC is going to get.” He
He gave the East team a 10-0 halftime lead after catching a 31-yard
touchdown pass from Vanderbilt commit Kyle Shurmur in the second
quarter. Payton was wide open on the play after running an outstanding
stop and go route that Oklahoma four-star cornerback commit P.J.
Mbanasor bit on hard.
Payton caught a short out route late in the first half. He turned it
upfield and made the first defender miss turning it into a 12-yard
gain, but it was his 58-yard touchdown with just under three minutes
remaining in the game that sealed the deal. The East team had earlier
run a reverse and built off the play by faking the reverse and throwing
downfield. The offensive line gave Virginia Tech commit Dwayne Lawson
time and the quarterback had an easy throw to Payton, who was 15 yards
behind the defense.
He had jogged toward the middle of the field feigning the run before
bursting upfield and leaving four-star Nebraska cornerback commit, Eric Lee — the top player from the state of Colorado — behind. Payton caught
the pass and strolled into the end zone for the final score of the game.
While he won the MVP award, Payton would have easily have been the
frontrunner for best trashtalker as well. Unafraid to back down from
bigger defensive backs or even defensive linemen on the West squad, the
only thing that moved as quickly as his feet seemed to be his mouth.
“Hey, the West was talking smack too. I had to talk smack back. But I
backed it up, that’s the most important thing," Payton said with a grin.
Payton also wasn’t afraid to talk about his love for USC. It has been
rumored that when the ink is dry on National Signing Day, Payton may
not be a part of the Trojans’ 2015 class. But from his words to the USC
attire he sported throughout the week, Payton remains steadfast on his
“The USC coaches, they know what’s up. They know I’m solid, so they're
not really worried about what people say,” Payton said. “I’ve got a
good relationship with all of the coaches. That’s a great thing.
They’re not worried about me decommitting. I’m not decommitting. Fight
Payton said he hasn’t talked to the USC coaches recently because of the
“The last time I talked to them, they just told me to keep doing what I
do. Just keep fighting and keep pushing myself in school and keep
He has yet to take his official visit to USC. He said that will come on
the weekend of January 16 and that he doesn’t have any other visits
Payton is excited about the group of recruits USC is putting together,
including one of the recruits that stood out to Payton -- recent
four-star running back commit Ronald Jones II.
“He’s going to be a nice one. I watched him in the Under Armour game.
Nice run. I love it,” Payton said. “The class is actually great.
Getting new athletes in and making the program better, so that’s a
A new crop of top-flight prospects will bring fresh depth-chart battles
to Howard Jones Field and that’s something that brings a sly smirk to
“Some of the wide receivers, they’re actually pretty good, but you just
have to go out and you have to battle,” he said. “[I’m] looking forward
to the competition. Just making me a better athlete and that’s a great
thing. I want to get better. I want to go out and battle every day.
It’s gonna just make me better.”
Until his visit, Payton is focused on recruiting for the Trojans.
“Oh yea! Got to. Fight On, baby!”
After winning MVP Sunday night, Payton took a photo with East teammate
Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a USC tight end/defensive end target. But Payton
told him he couldn’t be in Wheatley's picture unless the big man threw
up the two-fingered “Fight On!” symbol.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit about USC. He loves it out here,”
Wheatley said of Payton, who Wheatley had predicted before the game
would “make some big plays.”
During the down time between practices, Payton also spent some time
with West defensive lineman Noah Jefferson — his opponent for the week,
but his potential USC teammate over the next four years.
“Actually, me and Noah have been out here chilling, hanging out, just
getting to know each other a little better. Just getting ready to
enroll at USC after graduation, so just waiting on the moment,” Payton
said before the game. “I want Noah to do his best and I’m going to
bring what I bring to the table. I just want both of us to go out there
and perform and show what USC is getting.”
Both Payton and Jefferson, who had four tackles and two sacks, did
exactly that. They both gave the Trojan fans a sample of what could be.
Payton wants to be at USC
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