UCLA receiver Jordan Payton, ever-briefly a commit to the University of Washington, was one of the standouts at the NFL combine Saturday.
The day before Jordan Payton began a career that ended in him becoming the leading receiver in UCLA history, he went on national television and committed to spend “the next three to four years at the University of Washington.’’
A highly-touted receiver from Santa Monica, Calif., in the recruiting class of 2012, Payton was a Husky for barely 18 hours.
After announcing on ESPNU the afternoon before letter-of-intent day that he would attend Washington, Payton changed his mind and signed instead with UCLA the following morning.
When Payton was reminded of that sudden turn-of-events this week while meeting the media at the NFL combine, an embarrassed smile broke across his face.
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“That’s like an old, bad taste in my mouth,’’ Payton said. “You know, that was just me being young and not knowing what I was going to do and falling in love with coaches and stuff like that.’’
In fact, Payton’s recruiting odyssey was dizzying even before the late switch from UW to UCLA.
He had committed to USC while a junior in high school. Then, he committed to Cal on national TV while playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
But a few days after that game, UW hired two of the coaches responsible for his recruiting at Cal — Eric Kiesau and Tosh Lupoi. Kiesau and Lupoi led a late charge to try to get Payton to UW, which included a quick visit to Seattle on the weekend before signing day, which then led to his brief commitment to UW.
Ultimately, he said, he ended up where he was meant to be at UCLA, where he caught 201 passes in four years, setting a school career record.
Were fate to lead him back to Seattle now, though, Payton wouldn’t complain, though like everyone here, he’s mostly just hoping for a good landing spot anywhere in the NFL.
Payton was one of the standouts during workouts for receivers at the NFL combine Saturday, running a 4.47 40-yard dash.
That ranked eighth among the receivers here but was also substantially better than the time of 4.54 he carried with him into the combine, and will likely cause teams to take a closer look at his resume.
The 6-1 Payton said he weighed 218 during his senior year at UCLA but is now down to 207, one reason he may be a bit faster now, as well.
Depending on how things shake out in free agency (specifically, if Jermaine Kearse signs elsewhere) the Seahawks could be looking to add a receiver somewhere in the draft and Payton could be an intriguing mid-round option.
He also has some ties to the Seahawks. He is good friends with Cassius Marsh, who was a teammate of his at both Oaks Christian and UCLA.
“I talk to Cassius almost every day,’’ Payton said. “He texted me before I got out here and wished me luck. But every day we talk. He’s been like a brother to me.’’
He also has memories of Pete Carroll making visits to Oaks Christian to recruit Marsh and others when he was still at USC.
“He’s a legend where I’m from,’’ Payton said of Carroll. “He’d come to our school recruiting Cassius and seeing him walking the hallways was huge for us.’’
Payton, who said he met at the combine with Seahawks receivers coach Dave Canales, was considered intriguing before the event due to his size, durability and production.
Saturday’s 40-yard times will only help him potentially separate from what is considered a mediocre group of receiving prospects.
That’s in stark contrast to the last two years, which some have considered among the best classes of receivers ever. Symbolic of way this year’s group of receivers is judged is that many consider Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, who spent most of his career as a quarterback, as the best receiving prospect.
“I’ve heard that this is not a good wide receiver class or whatever,’’ Payton said. “But I think it’s just that there are no true standouts in this class. I think that we all have these qualities and we are all around the same.’’