Move over, Tim Tebow. There’s a sophomore with sticky fingers and fancy footwork who’s also publicly acknowledging something greater than thousands of raucous fans.
Payton – known as “JP” by his Bruin teammates but as “Big Joe” when he was a student at Lighthouse K-8th grade – credits Christ as the big motivation of his life – even bigger than one day winning a Super Bowl.
“Lighthouse prepared me in every aspect – spiritually and physically,” Payton told LCA News last year. “Spiritually, they’ve given me the best path to stay on. I understand the world’s a crazy place, and I need God in my life.”
Payton’s mom, Kathy, who teaches at Lighthouse Christian Academy in the Independent Study Program, is not surprised her son has gone so far in football.
It was Kathy who scolded his Pop Warner coach at half time for not playing him in a Las Vegas tournament – Jordan was only eight playing with 10- to 12-year-olds. “You need to play Jordan,” she told the Pacific Palisades team coach. “He can catch the ball.”
Wisely, that coach heeded Kathy, and Jordan went in to catch a long bomb pass that ultimately led the Bruins (was the name prophetic?) to overturning the halftime losing scoreline.
Payton has always been big and strong – so big that he was out of his weight class in seventh grade and couldn’t play Pop Warner. Now 6’2” and 212 pounds, he’s fast and fierce on the field. On the Oct. 5 game against the University of Utah, the wide-receiver caught a pass and strong-armed his coverage to score a touchdown, his first this season. See touchdown here.
While he’s fearsome to foes, he’s humble and gentle to everyone else. Christianity marks his life more than the pigskin. In the pre-season, Payton wisely avoided an antagonistic war of words with another UCLA player competing for Jordan’s first string spot.
“God is #1 in his life,” said Kathy. “He knows that God has given him a gift. He really believes he’s going to go to the NFL. From that point, how ever God uses him to help others – physically, spiritually or financially – that’s just how Jordan is.”
Payton didn’t feature in Lighthouse football because he wanted to play 11-man, so he opted for Westlake Village-based Oaks Christian High. LCA only has 8-man football.
The biggest influence in his life was his older brother, Michael Payton, who played for Santa Monica College, then for Oregon State University and finally for West Virginia Tech – all after wreaking havoc on opponents as an LCA player, Kathy said.
LCA’s football program launched with Pastor Rob Scribner, an LA Rams player 1973-74, as coach. Later it flourished under the direction of former Principal George Neos, a three time Ivy League champion at Dartmouth University.
The Saints’ football program is experiencing an unexpected revival this year under coach Justin Kayne. They are currently 5-1 in CIF southern section.
While at Oaks, Jordan Payton went on mission trips to China and Haiti. In that Caribbean island, he and fellow students built a house after an earthquake decimated the island. “It was hard for him to see,” Kathy said.
There’s a compassionate side to Jordan side that opponents don’t see.
Since he “pulled a Tim Tebow,” does Payton admire that NFL quarterback who sparked controversy a few years ago by openly honoring God?
“He doesn’t watch Tim Tebow,” Kathy said. “He took a knee just because he was so thankful he got a touchdown after all the rigmarole he has had to go through fighting for a position. He has to work extra hard every single practice to show the coaches that he’s the one to play.”
To date, Payton has made 9 receptions and rushed 163 yards this season.
This article originally ran at http://www.thelighthousechristianacademy.com/jordan-payton-offers-power-as-wide-receiver-at-ucla/