For Tanner Wall and Jackson Payne, the local longtime friends are now far away and living their dreams together, each involved with the Brigham Young University football team in different manners.
Wall, a 2018 Yorktown High School graduate, is a walk-on freshman wide receiver and special teams player for the Cougars. McLean High 2018 graduate Payne covers the team as the head sports reporter for the school paper Daily Universe. He’s also the beat writer for other BYU sports, including basketball, and writes some opinion articles.
The two recently met up on BYU’s home field after the Cougars’ victory over top rival Utah, ending a 12-game losing streak against its nemesis. Wall did not play in the game, but suited up for the first time. Payne wrote a story about the contest.
“It was pretty special to have that experience and share that together, and to be doing something we both had talked about. Absolutely, the stars aligned,” Payne said. “Tanner was on the field for the first time and I was in the press box covering the game, then got to go down on the field and find him after the win.”
The two got to know each other growing up in the Arlington and McLean neighborhoods, attending the same church and being involved in sports. While Wall was a standout football and baseball player at Yorktown, Payne was a sports reporter and editor for the school paper at McLean. He wrote about Wall on occasion when McLean and Yorktown met in football and baseball.
The two often gathered to talk about high-school sports.
“We go way back,” said Payne, a communications and sports journalism major. “I’d go to his games in high school and he’d read my stories and give me feedback. We were each others biggest fans.”
Going forward, Payne said he and Wall hope their good fortunes continue at BYU and beyond.
“There’s a lot more we want to do,” said Payne, who hopes to become a professional sportswriter after college, a play-by-play announcer, a TV or radio sports reporter or host a sports show of some kind.
Prior to attending college, the two also discussed wanting to continue their education and involvement in those activities at Brigham Young. The game between BYU and Utah became that milestone, as each had to first serve their two-year missions for the school at different times. The two would regularly text and e-mail, updating each other about their missions.
Those missions were interrupted in different ways because of COVID.