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L-E linebacker ready to bring the Payne to Newberry

Posted: May 8, 2014 2:32 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Midway during his senior season, Emmonti Payne was shifted from his outside linebacker post to fullback by the football staff at Lugoff-Elgin High School.
The 6-foot, 192-pounder thrived in his new role, as he led the Demons with 15 catches for 159 yards. On the ground, he rushed for 158 yards on 35 carries while scoring a touchdown. Now, though, Payne will return to the position he loves at Newberry College.
Payne made his commitment to the Wolves official by signing his National Letter of Intent with Todd Knight’s program during a ceremony held inside the L-E Wellness Center.
“Up there, it looks like I will be an outside linebacker or, moving to safety,” Payne said as to where he expects to play at Newberry. And he said he is glad to be back on the defensive side of the football.
“I like hitting people. I have a knack for hitting people,” he said. “It’s my stress-reliever and I love it. But I thank God for letting me play on both sides of the ball in high school.”
Payne racked up 33 tackles, with six for loss of yardage and an interception while playing defense last fall for L-E head coach Scott Jones and company.
Football was not the only reason why Payne chose Newberry. After visiting the school and weighing out what it offered as compared to other schools he was looking to attend, Newberry had too much going for it for Payne to say no to the chance to get his education while playing football at the same time.
“Newberry was a very unique school to me. It is very small, it’s a Christian school and it’s close to home. They’re a true family,” he said.
Jones said Payne made the right choice in selecting Newberry.
“Newberry’s a great fit for Emmonti,” said the L-E boss. “They have excellent coaches there and they will look after him and look out for his best interests.
“Emmonti comes from a great family,” Jones added. “He’s a well-disciplined young man who has a great personality. We’re going to miss him not just because he’s a good football player, but because he has a great attitude. He’s really grown up and he’s come a long way.”
Newberry started looking at Payne during spring practice a year ago and stayed in contact throughout the Demons’ fall season. The soon-to-be L-E graduate never forgot that the Wolves were there for him throughout the recruitment process.
Getting the chance to play football at the next level is something which Payne never through about as a youngster. He started playing basketball when he was six and never played organized football until he was in the seventh grade. He said it did not take him long to fall in love with the game after donning the pads for the first time.
“I never really thought I would have a chance to play college football,” he said after his signing with Newberry. “All this time, I thought I was going to going into the Army. Then, all of a sudden, I started getting letters from schools saying they wanted me to play football for them.
“It hit me the summer of my junior year going into my senior year that I was getting letters and I said, ‘Whoa. Maybe I do have a chance to go somewhere if my keep my grades up and do the right thing, maybe I could be playing for somebody.”
Payne’s final high school football season was one of transition for him as he was moved to fullback when the injury bug started taking its toll on the players in the Demons’ offensive backfield. He was more than willing to help out where needed.
“I started out knowing that I was going to be one of the leaders of our defense,” Payne said of his senior campaign at L-E. “My mindset was to play linebacker, but things happened and I was moved to fullback. But things worked out.
“I never thought that I would be a fullback but I think I showed my team that you can play two different positions at one time.”
Jones said the move to offense was one which took advantage of Payne’s skill set while helping out an offense which needed more playmakers on that side of the ball.
“He has multiple skills,” Jones said of what Payne brought to the table on offense. “Emmonti can catch the ball coming out of the backfield and that played a big part in our decision to move him over to that side of the ball after we lost some guys over there due to injury. He became a very good blocker and a hard-nosed runner.
“He did some things for us that made us competitive in some games where we probably wouldn’t have been. He did a really good job when he made that transition.”
Defensively, Jones said, Payne has a nose for the football and his mobility and range of motion were his strong suits at linebacker.
With Payne’s frame and skill set, he could also be moved into the secondary by the Newberry staff. Either way, he is ready to begin the next chapter in his life.
“Learning the plays, getting to know the plays and lining up where I’m supposed to be,” he said when asked what challenges await him at college, on the field. “Just having that mindset that this is what I came here for. It’s faster paced game. That’s why I need to be working out hard and getting my speed up because the game’s going to be much faster paced in college.”
“I’m moving to college from high school and not too many people have done that. Thank God that it’s happened to me. I’m moving on … college is a big step for me.”
Before football, however, Payne said he know the bigger priority at Newberry will be in the classroom. He anticipates long nights of studying, as is the case with every college student. That will all come soon enough for Emmonti Payne. On this day, however, it was all about securing his future.
“This was a big day for me,” he said with a smile. “I was very nervous. I couldn’t sleep last night. This is a big deal because not many people from my school, as of right now, are going to play football at the collegiate level.
“It’s a big deal for me, my mother, my father and my sister and brother, who are looking up to me.”

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