Payton paving his own way

Jarrett Payton has been blessed with one of the greatest names in football history, but the running back is trying to build a reputation that will allow him to play a game he loves.

Being the son of Walter has always made Jarrett Payton a target for comparisons and of opponents.

"No matter what happens you are always going to be compared. But for me as a person I have gotten past the comparison because it's hard to compare someone to the greatest in my opinion and someone who was unbelievable," Jarrett said of his father. "But if you look at what I have done so far I feel like I have just been scratching the surface of my talent and being able to play. I feel like I can still get a lot better."

Jarrett wasn't naturally drawn to football, as his first love was soccer. He once scored six goals in a high school game. During his junior year at Saint Viator high school Jarrett decided to play football, but as a quarterback. He began the evolution into a running back during his senior year of high school.

His future looked bright as he committed to the University of Miami, but as a red-shirt freshman Walter passed away from liver cancer.

At that point Jarrett really wondered if he wanted to play the game his father dominated for more than a decade.

"That was when the big decision was if I still wanted to play," Jarrett said. "It wasn't the fact I wanted to play just for him. He was a big factor in my process of getting better. He helped me out a lot. I didn't feel like I had a teacher anymore."

In the end Jarrett found he had a new support base at Miami from teammates, but in particular running backs coach, Don Soldinger.

"Once I got into college and started to understand and started to see I could see from other people, especially coaches," Jarrett said. "My coach Don Soldinger was big in my process of being a better player. Once I got a relationship with him he became like another dad to me. He pushed me just like my dad would and I just felt, hey, I can do this."

However things on the field didn't go Jarrett's way. Heading into his senior season the crop of talent on the Hurricane roster limited his playing time to just 117 carries for 511 yards. Three first-round picks - Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee - were ahead of him at some point during his Miami career.

Injuries to Frank Gore, who had been the projected starter, gave Jarrett a chance to show what he could do during his senior season. He fell just short of 1,000 yards as he averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 185 attempts with 7 touchdowns.

There are several uncertainties about Jarrett on the NFL level. What position is he suited to play? He spent some time at fullback at Miami, but Jarrett believes he's a running back. With less than 300 carries under his belt there is some concern if he can take the pounding at the NFL level. The biggest question is his speed and he knows it as Jarrett is working at Don Beebe's speed camp. Realistically a 4.6 40-time would make him a second day draft selection.

"At the end of the season, especially in the Orange Bowl you see big runs where I do show that speed that I do have," Jarrett said. "I just think this weekend it will show and I have the Pro Day next Saturday at Miami."

Vernon Carey, who blocked for Jarrett at Miami, classified Payton deceptively quick. A strong finish to the season including a 46-yard touchdown run vs. Florida St. Jarrett showed has a little hop in his step.

"I think if would have done what he did at the end season all year or last year I think he would have a name for himself," Carey said. "He shocked a lot of people this year, well he didn't really shock them he just proved him wrong. Everybody thought he was just living off his father and everybody (here) knew he had it in him it was just for him to get it out."

High expectations come with the Payton name, but going to Chicago would put him under the microscope.

"That would be unbelievable pressure," Jarrett said. "There is going to be pressure anywhere you go. Maybe a little bit more added pressure, yeah, but that's life. I have been through so much already in my life being 23 years old--what else can you throw at me to be under more pressure than the things I have been through.

"I have been home in the city of Chicago the last month and a half and that is what everybody has been talking about. Would I love to be in Chicago? I would love to be in Chicago."

The Bears are in a no win situation if they did draft Jarrett because people would say they only did it because he's Walter's son. If they don't pick him then diehards would cry out ‘why didn't Jerry Angelo take the kid.'

"I think he's a good football player," Angelo. "It's probably no harder for us than it is for them. We'll go through the process. We don't have any problems with him. I'm sure he doesn't have any problems with us."

While Angelo is keeping an open mind about the situation, it's doubtful Jarrett will find a home with the Bears.


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