AJ Payne is a known recruit around the state of Georgia, but at a national level he remains a true sleeper. The class of 2018 Army commit has played wide receiver and quarterback this season, making plays against all competition.
The last few weeks he has arguably made the best two plays in Georgia, and the most recent earned him Play of the Week honors on our website. The senior literally put his team on his back last weekend against Howard. Americus-Sumter ran a power left with Payne and he slung a defender over his shoulder, then emerged by himself from a pile of humanity streaking down the middle of the field for a 60-yard score.
It was utter chaos, but plays just like that, where Payne can get loose and dominate is what makes him so exciting. It has become an all too common occurrence for the senior, and clear evidence is in his senior film at the top of the article.
Americus-Sumter owns a 9-2 record and was undefeated in region play this season. We asked Payne looking back what his expectations were for 2017.
“Yes, I thought we’d do well this season. Ever since last season ended we planned for this season and planned to go undefeated but we had a few mishaps.” The senior continued, “We lost a close one to Crisp, which I felt could have went our way. I’m very glad with our performance this year!”
Tonight, Americus-Sumter plays Thomson, whose only loss was on the road against undefeated Burke County by a score of 27-24. Thomson has a lot of experience, dating back to last season where they were state runner-up in 4-A. So needless to say, tonight’s opponent will be a tough one, and we asked Payne how he prepares for a big opponent like the Bulldogs of Thomson.
“Before a big game like this the ritual doesn’t change, when we get out of the school the team and I go in the locker room where we have a big speaker playing from 4 o’clock until 7 o’clock. We have the speaker playing, getting us turnt before the game, so it won’t change.”
The senior still has a few big goals he wants to achieve this year, “I would like to end my senior season winning a state championship with the guys I grew up with, but we have a hard road. They always say to be the best, you have to beat the best!”
The biggest test will be tonight for sure, and Payne will be heavily leaned upon both as a runner and receiver. His physicality gives him a major advantage, and that’s one of the major differences we see in his game from last year. Payne has gained more weight, and is now 215 pounds, when you couple that with his explosive first step he becomes the X-Factor against the stingy Thomson defense.
Jumping into recruiting, Payne said that he doesn’t have an official visit planned with Army yet, but expects to have that finalized in the next week or two. A few other colleges have still shown interest in Payne too.
“Yes, I hear from other colleges. I still send my film out on Twitter, maybe get some other looks. As of now, I’m visiting Kennesaw State Saturday, I talked with Navy, Air Force, and that’s about it.”
No matter the result for tonight’s game against Thomson, Payne’s high school career is coming to an end, so we asked him what his favorite part about playing on Friday nights.
“My favorite part about playing the game is the adrenaline and the fun I have playing with the guys I grew up with. We all have one goal in common and that’s to win. I love winning too!”
Interested in recruiting Payne? Click HERE to visit his RG Profile.