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Americus-Sumter’s A.J. Payne signs with Independence Community College

AMERICUS – Americus-Sumter wide receiver/running back A.J. Payne signed a scholarship Monday, March 26, to further his education and play football at Independence Community College, a junior college in Independence, Kansas. The signing took place in the ASH gymnasium in front of family, friends, coaches and the ASH student body.

As a running back, Payne carried the ball 37 times, rushed for 269 yards and scored two touchdowns. As a wide receiver, Payne had 26 catches for 319 yards and four touchdowns.

“First off, I give thanks to God, my mom and dad, the rest of my family, my entire family being here with me through this journey,” Payne told the student body assembled. Payne went on to say that his journey has been hard. He mentioned that he was in an accident and that he wondered if he would ever be able to play football again. “It means a lot to me to be able to sign a full scholarship to play ball,” Payne said. He then told the crowd assembled that he would be attending Independence Community College.

An excellent student with a 3.34 GPA, Payne plans to major in Mechanical Engineering. Payne also played linebacker for the Panthers, and said that the coaches at Independence plan to use him at linebacker. Independence Community College has a solid football program. The Pirates went 9-2 in 2017.

After his stint at Independence, Payne said he plans to continue his education and football career at the University of Texas. After graduation, he would like to open up his own automotive business. “I want to start my own automotive company like Mr. Daron (Tyson) at Tystanic Customs. I want to work on cars and different kind of stuff like that.”

Americus-Sumter wide receiver/running back A.J. Payne signing scholarship to play football at Independence Community College. Left to Right (front row): A.J.’s father, Anthony Payne, A.J. Payme, his mother, Catrial Valentino. Left to Right (back row): A.J.’s grandmother, Cheryl Goober, A.J.’s brother, Tyree Threadcraft, A.J.’s Aunt, Shonemeca Hill, A.J.’s Aunt Elizabeth Smith.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Payne has made a big impact on his teammates, including ASH starting quarterback Kierston Harvey. “It was really easy for me knowing that I had a big receiver to throw the ball to, and he would go get it every time. It made my job easy,” Harvey said.

Sage Finch is a fellow wide receiver for the Panthers. For him, it was the leadership of Payne that made an impact. “A.J. showed very good leadership qualities,” Finch said. “He’s a good character kid and fun to play with.”

Payne’s leadership and character on and off the field has also made an impact on his coaches. Demario Barber, the Panthers’ wide receiver coach, said Payne would play any position and do whatever it took to help the team, including playing quarterback. “A.J., he did a great job for us. He’s a great young man. He was an excellent running back, wide receiver and quarterback,” Coach Barber said. “Pretty much anything we needed to do, he was able to do for us.” Payne also played on the defensive side of the ball as well. “He played some linebacker, a little bit of strong safety. He played a couple of different positions for us,” ASH defensive coordinator Jon Rechtorovic said. “He filled in on certain situations, passing situations. It gave us an extra athlete out there on the field. He did a good job. He filled in when necessary.”

Payne will add to an already strong program at Independence. The Pirates finished the 2017 season ranked #5 in the nation in the NJCAA top 25 rankings.