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USFL: What Gamblers’ Donald Payne learned playing in the NFL


Donald Payne is a tackling machine.

The Houston Gamblers linebacker not solely leads the USFL in whole stops with 108 however has racked up 22 greater than his closest competitor, New Orleans linebacker Jerod Fernandez. Not dangerous for an undersized defender who performed faculty soccer at tiny Stetson University.

Donald Payne explains what he learned from playing in the NFL

RJ Young is joined by Houston Gamblers LB Donald Payne. Payne shares what it was like being the first participant from Stetson University to make it to the NFL, and explains why he by no means transferred in faculty.

Payne spoke with RJ Young on his podcast, “The Numer One Ranked Show,” about his journey from Stetson to professional soccer.

“Stetson is a small Div. I-AA faculty, there aren’t any athletic scholarships identical to the Ivy League,” he stated. “I had nice stats, an important profession there and the whole lot, however we weren’t any NFL scouts at our practices like that.

“But going into my senior 12 months, my coach informed me that if I actually put my thoughts to it, go all-in, I might have an opportunity at the subsequent stage. … During my senior 12 months I mainly stated, ‘you know, I can take this to the next level. I can make this a career. I can make this a lifelong dream.'”

Payne signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 and went on to rack up the third-most tackles among special teams players in the NFL that season. 

He said his coach at Stetson, Kiwaukee Thomas, encouraged him to use special teams as a path to the pros. Thomas himself built an eight-year career in the NFL primarily through special teams, playing for the Jaguars, Dolphins and Bills.

“He said he was able to stick in the league by being a great special teams player, by knowing if you can run down on kickoffs, make blocks in the open field, then you’re going to have a chance to stick in the NFL, have a chance to make some real money,” Payne said. “I kind of honed in on that and basically said ‘I’m a smaller linebacker with pace. That’s what particular groups are for — a linebacker that may hit and run down the area.'”

Other subjects Payne mentioned on the podcast:

— The qualities which have helped him grow to be such a prolific tackler.

— How he has handled being an undersized defensive participant.

— Why he did not switch to a college that had athletic scholarships.

— What it felt wish to knock the beforehand unbeaten Birmingham Stallions off their pedestal in Week 9.


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