L.C. Bird head coach Troy Taylor, then the quarterbacks coach at Virginia Union University, recalls watching the Skyhawks in the playoffs against Hermitage High School in 2016. There was a sophomore who immediately caught his eye. He was Jaden Payoute.
“I just thought to myself, ‘That’s a D1 kid,’” Taylor said.
Then, there was the alley-oop that Payoute caught over a defender in a JV basketball game just a few months later. It all led to one conclusion.
“He’s an elite athlete,” Taylor said.
Payoute, Virginia Tech’s highest rated recruit from the 2019 class, signed his national letter of intent on Wednesday morning at L.C. Bird High School. For Payoute, he can finally take a breath with the grueling recruiting process now complete.
“It’s a very big weight [off my shoulder]. It’s finally over, so I can focus on what I have to do at the next level,” Payoute said. “It’s humongous for me and my family because me going to the next level and playing college football, that has always been my dream. It’s a big honor.”
The 6-foot-1, 189-pounder played quarterback his senior year at L.C. Bird. In a run-heavy offense, Payoute passed for 397 yards, ran for 380 yards, and picked up another 59 receiving yards, scoring 13 total touchdowns. He will be a wide receiver at Virginia Tech.
Payoute’s recruiting started off slow, but after a stop at a Virginia Tech camp in June, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, picked up an offer from the Hokies, and committed just a week later. The four-star prospect continued to see his stock rise, and he even had Ohio State and Penn State pursuing him and trying to flip him until the end.
“It was crazy at first because I never really thought it was going to take off like that,” Payoute said. “When it did, I just had to humble myself, and do what I was doing before I got all the offers.”
However, his father Larry Parker insists that it was not Payoute’s football skills that first garnered the attention of recruiters. Instead, his abilities on the track catapulted his recruiting climb.
“Me and my wife were pressing a lot for him to do track,” Parker said. “We knew that Jaden is a different type of athlete. He has a different type of speed. Once he got out on the track and showed his individual ability, I think that kind of opened up a lot for scouts and recruiters to kind of say, ‘OK, who is this guy?’”
Last year, Payoute won the state title in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.67, a time sure to turn some heads. Virginia Tech is no stranger to having track stars with breakaway speed over the past few years. Redshirt freshman cornerback Caleb Farley (10.77) and freshman running back Cole Beck (10.37) were also state champions in the 100-meter dash.
Excelling as a multi-sport athlete captures Payoute’s resolute determination. While he’ll just play football at Virginia Tech, he intends to carry that same mindset to the New River Valley.
“I want to be remembered as a person who always works hard and always has a good work ethic,” Payoute said. “When I get up there, I don’t want to be just another number. I want to be a person that stands out and does more than just football.”
Zohn Burden was Payoute’s primary recruiter through the whole process. Payoute explained that his relationship with Burden took off, and it felt like they had known each other for years.
Those relationships that were built with Burden and the rest of the coaching pushed Virginia Tech over the top for Payoute.
“I keep referring back to it, but it’s the coaches,” Payoute said. “Sometimes coaches are not going to be 100 percent and honest with you. I feel like they were. It didn’t feel like I was going to go there just for football. I was going to go there for football, education, and furthering my social life.”
The wide receiver will stay home in-state, an important trend for Fuente and Co. in their recruiting. Payoute was one of seven recruits to stay in-state with Virginia Tech this year.
“It’s a parent’s dream come true,” Parker said. “We’ll be able to make all of the home games… For him to stay at home and be like the hometown hero, it’s the best of both worlds.”
So what kind of impact will Payoute have as a Hokie? Only time will tell, but Taylor maintains that he sees a lot of similarities in one of his former players who went on to make his presence known in Blacksburg.
“I’m expecting him to have a similar career to John Graves, who I coached at Meadowbrook [High School],” Taylor said. “Going to Virginia Tech, he was all-ACC, and he was team captain his senior year. I think that’s right there where Jaden will be.”
In the meantime, Payoute will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl before joining forces with linebacker Rayshard Ashby, his former high school teammate, and the rest of the team at Virginia Tech.