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Thursday, May 12, 2011
No slowing down for Jordan Payton

By Sean Ceglinsky

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- Life out on the football field has recently slowed down quite a bit for Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian's Jordan Payton. The same thing, however, can not be said about life off the gridiron lately for the highly-touted prospect from the 2012 class.

Before attempting to delve into the particulars with regards to how the whole recruiting process is going for Payton, a 6-foot-2 and 200-pound wide receiver, it is important to gain a better understanding of some of the things that took place beforehand.

The USC commit and ESPNU 150 Watch List member enjoyed a rather productive stint on the camp and combine circuit over the course of the past couple months. Payton was as busy as they come, no doubt about it, traveling all over the West Coast in an effort to maintain his growing reputation as one of the nation's premier players at his position.

Mission accomplished. All signs point to Payton improving his standing in the eyes of the powers that be, college coaches and scouts, specifically.

In doing so, he created a problem, of sorts. The plan was to take a mini-break from football this past week in order to be better prepared for the spring practices beginning at Oaks Christian on Monday afternoon. Instead, he's been bombarded with constant questions from prospective programs about his all-important future intentions at the next level.

"Things have been crazy, I have colleges hitting me up all of the time,'" Payton said. "I thought when I picked USC that things would eventually slow down. But they haven't. I'm hearing from a bunch of different schools right now, more than ever.

"Oklahoma, Michigan, Arkansas and Florida State, they're all on me, they've been the most consistent with talking to me. Florida is another one.

"I'm still committed to USC, yes. But I think I'd like to take some unofficial visits at some point. One day, when I'm older, I'd like to be able to say that I went to somewhere like Gainesville or Ann Arbor, just to see what it was like in those places."

Payton has a laundry list of scholarship offers, approaching 20, for those counting. Apparently, schools like LSU, Notre Dame, Tennessee, among many others, are not deterred by the fact that he gave USC a verbal commitment back in March of 2010.

In this day and age, when recruits tend to be as indecisive as ever, suppose it doesn't hurt to extend an offer to a prized prospect such as Payton.

"I'm talking to colleges about Jordan every week, every day, it's non-stop," said Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell. "Every time I look up in the stands, there is another school around watching him during one of our practices. I would be here too. I would want to talk with him, he's that good. Jordan is the kind of kid that can make a big impact in college."

Whether that happens, or not, remains to be seen.

One thing is certain: Payton has made an impact in each of his three years playing varsity over at Oaks Christian. He didn't start as freshman for the Lions, but contributed nonetheless. During his sophomore season, his playing time increased significantly.

Accordingly, Payton enjoyed a breakout effort as junior. In 14 games, he had a team-high 61 receptions for 840 yards, an average of nearly 14 yards per catch. Payton also had a pair of games with 10 or more grabs and finished with nine touchdowns.

While waiting for things to start up again at Oaks Christian, Payton stayed in shape during March and April by working out with 1925 All-Stars and Big Man On Campus, a pair of programs spearheaded by former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson.

"Jordan is player, he can go, he has tools that you don't always find in a high school receiver," Johnson said. "He has bright future ahead of him."

Make no mistake, USC is well aware of what the future could potentially hold for Payton. Suppose that best explains why Trojans assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron is a regular at Oaks Christian, along with everyone else, mind you.

Keeping close tabs on Payton appears to be a priority, although USC has already received commitments from from fellow Southern California standouts such as Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif./Carson) and Jaydon Mickens (Los Angeles, Calif./Dorsey).

"Orgeron was here this week, last week too," Redell said.

Life on the football field has been busy for Payton.

So have things off the football field, perhaps more so.

Given the way things, recruiting wise that is, have recently transpired for Payton, it's reasonable to expect much more of the same moving forward.

"I can see my self taking a visit to Michigan, maybe Arkansas, Oklahoma after that, we'll see," Payton said. "Like I said before, things are crazy, but I'm enjoying life right now. Stuff like this happens once in a lifetime. I'm just trying to enjoy the ride."

And what a ride it has been thus far.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for