Jake Payne began the next step in his NFL quest by attending the University of Richmond’s Pro Day Monday.
The Battlefield High School graduate was one of 17 players who worked out and performed various drills in front of scouts from 19 NFL teams at Sports Reality in Mechanicsville. Five of the participants were five draft-eligible Richmond players, while the others were either recent Richmond players or players, like Payne, from other colleges.
Payne will also showcase his skills Thursday at William & Mary’s Pro Day.
Payne played college football at Division III Shenandoah University, where he was the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year last season. But since Shenandoah did not have a pro day, Payne looked to perform at other schools.
Payne said his agent set up the two appearances at Richmond and William & Mary. Payne also received help from scouts for the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers who requested his presence at Richmond.
Interest in the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Payne increased following his performance at the College Gridiron Showcase in mid-January in Texas. Payne received his invitation three days before the four-day event and was initially placed with the Select Group.
But after the first day of practice, he was elevated to the All-Star Group. That move allowed him to play against Division I players. In the final day’s scrimmage before scouts for the NFL, CFL and AFL, Payne recorded 3.5 sacks against a higher-level of competition than he was accustomed to.
“That was cool to do that against guys at that level,” said Payne, who interviewed with 15 NFL teams at CGS.
According to the CGS’ web site, last year’s event produced “10 NFL draft picks, 53 signed undrafted free agents and 22 rookie camp invitees, totaling 85 of our 104 (81%) athletes getting opportunities in the NFL.” Twelve ended up making 53-man rosters, while 11 were placed on practice squads and two others on injured reserve.
“The biggest thing was getting me on the map,” said Payne, an end at Shenandoah who led the conference in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (seven).
Payne attributed his success at the College Gridiron Showcase to his time at a training facility called DI in Tampa Bay, Florida. Payne was trained by Taylor Scott, a former college defensive end who spent some time in the CFL.
“His pass-rushing stuff changed my game,” said Payne, who left for DI right before Christmas before returning home March 6 to prepare for his pro days.