Oct. 2, 2012
By Eric Dezendorf
During the month of August, college football camps are underway all across the country. After about a week, every single player on the field is ready for the season to begin. They're ready to get on the field in order to achieve glory for their school and team. At Cal, Kendrick Payne is no exception.
Payne, a native of Houston, Texas, has been ready for the show for some time.
"I started playing football at four or five years old because my dad, and really, my whole family is into football," Payne said. "I had a few uncles that played college and NFL ball. I was kind of born into it."
He is right about his pedigree, as his uncle, Harvey Williams, played for eight seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs and both the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders.
At six-foot-two and 283 pounds, there is little doubt about what Payne can do on the football field, but the fifth-year senior didn't always know he was going to be on the defensive line.
"All my life, I've played every position," Payne said. "At one point, I could actually throw the ball over 65 yards. In high school I played basketball, I threw the shot put, I played baseball and just recently, I'm getting into soccer. I like to think of myself as an overall athlete."
His athletic abilities have turned into great results on the football field. At Klein Forest High School in Houston, Payne had 44 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and four quarterback hurries to earn Co-Defensive District MVP honors in his senior season.
After graduation, Payne had fairly specific requirements in his choice of a college.
"I wanted to go to a school that stressed academics and had a pretty good football team," Payne said. "I almost stayed back home at Rice University because the academics are pretty good, but the football team doesn't get a lot of love. Once I saw Cal and heard about how they were the top public university in the world, it was a no brainer."
Life on the field at Cal has been good to Payne. Although an injury forced him to sit out his first season, Payne has recorded 36 tackles - with 7.0 of them coming behind the line of scrimmage - as well as three sacks and a fumble recovery.
Those stats came mostly as a role player off the bench. Payne knows he needs to step up for his senior season because he is a starter and key component on the defensive line. He knows it is his turn to lead the Golden Bear defensive front.
"It's uncharted territory for me because you don't want to try too hard to be a leader," Payne said. "You just want to focus on yourself and lead by example. It's tough to find that balance on how to lead your guys and get everybody on the right track while still working on your own play. I feel that I'm accountable to the younger players. Sometimes it can be a burden, but it motivates me a lot to do well and to continue to do the right thing."
This season, Payne hopes his playing ability and leadership will translate into a Pac-12 Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
"It's a big goal, but you have to set your dreams high. I feel like we have the talent and cohesiveness to get it done."
Payne wants to go out strong now that he has realized this is his last go-around at Cal. His favorite moment from his first three seasons was taking the Axe back from Stanford in the 2009 Big Game. This year, Payne will have the opportunity to make many more memories
"Yesterday, I just sat back and realized how blessed I am to know so many people and to have so many connections all over the U.S. and to be a part of such a prestigious university like Cal," Payne said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity here and I will go out with a blast this last season."