Miami’s pre-high school interest in WR Jeremiah Payton pays off

Jeremiah Payton-Miami recruiting-Miami commitment

There are few in the Jacksonville (Fla.) metropolitan area with a better grasp on up-and-coming prospects than Koreen Burch. The former Ball State defensive back is the founder and CEO of Burch Sports Performance, where he trains athletes and coaches a 7-on-7 team by the same name. Whenever a talented prospect is rising through the ranks in Duval County, Burch is one of the first to know. Jeremiah Payton qualified.

It has made him one of Todd Hartley’s most important connections. When Burch has a list of names to offer, Hartley, a Miami assistant coach, listens.

This was even the case in 2016 for Payton. The promising young wide receiver hadn’t even suited up for a varsity game, yet Burch was certain he had a future star on his hands.

“Just the way he created separation coming off the line of scrimmage,” Burch said, “and how he was able to track the ball, and his strong hands.”

Sometime before Payton began his sophomore year at Duncan U. Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Fla., Hartley went to check in with Burch. The tight ends coach, Burch said, had to check out Payton.

“Jeremiah was one of those guys that you had to mention,” Burch said, “regardless of what class he was in.”

As Payton remembers it, Hartley offered before he’d even played in a varsity game. A few months later, the assistant coach had engaged in recruiting the rising talent.

Almost two years later, Hartley’s early investment paid off. Payton, now a 4-star wide receiver in the 247Sports composite rankings, verbally committed to Miami on Tuesday following an unofficial visit in Coral Gables, Fla.

As one of the top-100 players in the country, Payton had a wealth of notable offers, including some which came in before the Hurricanes’ offer. No one was as persistent on recruiting Payton at a young age than Hartley.

“I just know that for him to even give me a shot at that young age — I was like 14 going on 15,” Payton told DieHards, “and know I had potential, that was just major.”

Payton was one of those prospects who was obviously on path to be a star from the first time he stepped on a field. The athlete started working with Burch between his freshman and sophomore seasons, when he was still a former quarterback in the midst of transitioning to wideout — he still plays a bit of quarterback for Duncan U. Fletcher.

The tools, however, were there. The burst at the line, the tracking ability and the ultra-reliable hands Burch mentioned all paired with an ideal frame. This fall, MaxPreps listed Payton at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds.

“He just had that natural gift that you can’t coach,” Burch said. “You can polish it up, but for the most part he was ready-made.”

His experience as a quarterback even let him understand his new position. He had to polish up his route running, but beyond some smaller technical tweaks he was advanced for his age. Miami made him a priority early and — once his junior season arrived — often.

Payton took his first trip to South Florida on Sept. 23 to watch the Hurricanes beat Toledo at Hard Rock Stadium. Less than two months later, the pass catcher returned to see the Hurricanes take down then-No. 7 Notre Dame on Nov. 11. Although he grew up a Florida fan, Payton spent more time during the fall in the Miami metropolitan area than he did in Gainesville, Fla.

Hartley returned the favor when the offseason began. The special teams coordinator made Neptune Beach one of his first destinations during the contact period to meet with Payton in December. In January, he returned a few more times to watch Payton play basketball, including one trip with coach Mark Richt.

It left an impression.

“Just to have him make that trip up was just another dream come true,” Payton said of Richt’s visit. “Just to know that they really mean what they say, how much they love me, how much they want me at their school.”

Payton entered this weekend knowing there was a chance he might return home a Hurricane. Payton finally made it down to the Watsco Center on Saturday to see Miami fall to Syracuse in men’s basketball. It was his first trip to the actual campus — he’d previously only been to Hard Rock — and it provided the last bit of assurance about his decision.

He spent Sunday at Gibson Park for The Opening Miami regional, then returned home. Two days later, he told Hartley and wide receivers coach Ron Dugans he was ready to make his decision.

“Something told me,” Payton said. “I got to feeling good about what I’d been seeing, definitely what they’d been talking to me about.”

The post Miami’s pre-high school interest in WR Jeremiah Payton pays off appeared first on Diehards.

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