Courtesy of the Payne family
“Gran J,” as the Payne boys affectionally call their grandmother Julia Davis, makes the trip from Dallas to Houston every weekend during the fall to watch her grandsons, Julian and Jeremy, play football.
Over the past two years, she’s missed only one of their games.
This year, however, has been particularly special for “Gran J” and the Paynes. The brothers are playing on the same team for the first time. Julian, a senior, is a starting outside linebacker for Hightower. Jeremy, a sophomore, is a starting running back for the Hurricanes.
That the boys are together, playing the game that has bonded them for so long, is a thrill for the Paynes. The fact they’re doing so while helping lead Hightower (11-2) to the regional final for the first time since 2011? That’s simply a bonus, like a two-point conversion on a game-winning touchdown.
“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Jennafer, the boys’ mother. “They’ve played baseball, football and basketball, so we (her and husband Aaron) were always all over the place, going to multiple spots or splitting up so each could be at one child’s sport. To have them together, it’s a dream.
“They play with so much passion and they’re best friends. They’re homebodies. They’re not out. They’re always together. It’s been so great.”
Julian, at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, averages 6.8 tackles per game with 15 tackles for loss, three fumbles caused, two fumble recoveries and 1.5 sacks. The 5-11, 175-pound Jeremy has 1,388 rushing yards and a team-high nine touchdowns.
In the area playoff win against Georgetown two weeks ago, the boys scored the team’s first three touchdowns. Jeremy had two rushing scores and Julian had a scoop-and-score. In the playoffs, Jeremy has rushed for 200 or more yards in each game with six touchdowns. Julian has 10 or more tackles in each game.
“It’s beautiful, man,” Julian said. “It’s probably my favorite year ever playing football. I love it. My family can now all come watch us at one game instead of having to go to two. At games, we have a whole section with just our family.”
Julian’s earliest memory of his brother and football was when he started playing little league when he was six years old and Jeremy was four.
“He used to always run on the field with us after practice,” Julian said. “We’d do conditioning and he’d come run with us. He’d be right there, right behind me.”
Jeremy was too young to play little league at that time. So, whenever practice was over, he’d join the team and start doing laps or sprints with his older brother.
“I would run on the field with them, and I just felt so comfortable running with bigger, older guys,” Jeremy said. “I’ve always been fast.”
\u2066http://www.hudl.com/v/2FkrBg\u00a0 \u2066\u2066@coachanthony46\u2069 \u2066@CoachScottTX\u2069 \u2066\u2066@KaRonColemanSr\u2069 \u2066\u2066\u2066@HightowerFB\u2069— Jeremy Payne (@Jeremy Payne) 1634335169
The little league coach joked with Jennafer about signing a waiver to let Jeremy play. And when Jeremy finally was able to play, it didn’t take long for him to make a lasting memory his family would never forget.
In the first game of his second year of little league, Jeremy took a handoff and sped off about 80 yards for a touchdown, punctuating it with a halfway-cartwheel dance celebration that infuriated Aaron.
“I remember that run very well because my dad was so mad when I did it. So mad,” Jeremy said, laughing. “He was like, ‘Don’t do it again,’ because of the dance I did.”
Celebratory theatrics aside, Jeremy has made a living in the end zone. He is a natural athlete. On the football field, Jeremy plays running back, receiver, and linebacker. On the baseball field, he plays second base, shortstop, and centerfield.
As a freshman last year, Jeremy was named MVP of Hightower’s varsity baseball team. When he was 13, he won the No. 1 play in the nation, chosen by former Major League Baseball great Ozzie Smith. Jeremy won a $500 baseball glove.
“It’s effortless,” Aaron said. “A lot of the things he’s doing now is because of natural ability.”
Julian has always been a standout defensive player. He played end in little league. In middle school, he played cornerback. At Hightower, he plays outside linebacker and some free safety.
“The freedom, man,” Julian said. “I love coming up and making a big hit or big play. I love setting up a good spot for our offense.”
@CoachScottTX @Ichabod_CMac6 @coachanthony46 @HightowerFBhttp://www.hudl.com/v/2G5ZVu— 6 (@6) 1634516400
Julian is an emotional player. He thinks the game, studies it. Growing up, he taught Jeremy how to go at bigger, stronger players.
“He knows to not go right at them,” Julian said. “He has these little moves that go inside and then out.”
Off the field, Julian is a jokester, always finding a way to poke harmless fun at Jennafer’s expense. Jeremy is more serious, more reserved.
On the field, however, the personas are flipped. Julian is all business. Jeremy is only serious when the ball is snapped. Otherwise, he’s making jokes and letting loose.
“We’re complete opposites,” Jeremy said. “At the house, he’s always messing around and joking around. But on the field, he gets real serious and he becomes this leader of the defense that shows another side. He’s disciplined, he’s patient. He just waits until the perfect moment to attack. I’ll be doing misdirection in practices, and he’s there, meeting me in the hole.”
Jeremy Payne, left, and Julian Payne look on during a game this season.Courtesy of the Payne family
The Paynes are grateful to be playing another week. Only eight teams in the state in Class 5A, Division I are still playing football. Hightower is one of them.
Julian and Jeremy have at least one more game to create more memories together. One more week to learn a dance they saw on TikTok and show off before the game, something that has become a bit of a pregame ritual every week among the boys.
“He’s my best friend. That’s my little bro,” Julian said. “We talk about everything—football, any problems at school, anything. He’s my favorite person in the world.”
And the Paynes have a chance to gather the family once again. “Gran J,” of course, the loudest, most devoted fan of them all.
“It’s magical, but it’s also bittersweet,” Aaron said. “This is Julian’s last year. Sometimes we get sad. We’re happy we’re in this moment and it’s wonderful, but we also don’t want this season to end. You see them so happy, smiling and having so much fun together.”
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No. 2 Fort Bend Elkins Knights
The city sleeps on the Elkins Knights at times. However, coach Albert Thomas has led his squad to the State Finals in 2016 and been to the Regional Semis four times in the past six years.
Elkins looks to make it nine-straight years to the postseason and will do so. Why? Well, coaching of course but also superstar Chris Johnson, the District's Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. What will the 6-foot-5 shooting guard do for an encore? The national recruit holds offers from the likes of LSU, UH, Texas, Georgia and the Aggies and will be a force in Fort Bend in 2022.
He will get support from Jackson Fields, a 6-foot-6 rangy athlete coming over from football. He was a second-teamer last season. Ashton McKenzie will help in the backcourt, while Christopher Barnett will man the post.
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McKinney Boyd XC runner, Zach Martin, nabs VYPE DFW Public School Male Cross Country Runner of the Year presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors
02 Dec, 2021
After a successful season running for McKinney Boyd Men's Cross Country team, junior runner Zach Martin 38.49% of the fan votes to win the VYPE DFW Public School Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Fan Poll. VYPE DFW was able to catch up with Martin on his time running with McKinney Boyd as well as any hopeful plans he has for the future in an exclusive interview!
Staying Focused for Success
Photo provided by Zach Martin
The offseason can be a time to relax for some student-athletes, but for others it's a time of consistency and staying strong. In order to stay focused, you must have the drive to keep going. For Martin, finding that drive comes in the form of staying consistent in his routines. "I mostly maintain the same schedule as I would for a normal season [during the offseason]," Martin told VYPE. "I hold myself accountable for every workout I complete along with keeping my nutrition in check."
With such a strong offseason mindset, it's no wonder Martin has been able to stay successful in his high school running career, but what's his secret? martin says it's all about adding to your miles. "[The secret] was really just putting the miles in over the summer with the team. Along with that, I improved my nutrition and even began to lift more- which helped me improve my times," said Martin. As far as the team- what's their secret to success? Martin stayed with the theme of consistency. "In the summer, we really emphasized how consistency for every practice would allow us to challenge ourselves beyond our limits," said Martin. "For our team, we really did see a lot of improvement because of this... especially with some of our new runners."
As athletes usually do, Martin is great about setting goals for himself and working towards them each season. This season, he had a list of goals that he wanted to meet. Martin's list included: "go sub-16 in a race this year, place top five in district, get my team to regionals, and qualify for the state meet." When asked if he felt like he accomplished his goals, Martin said: "I feel that I was able to accomplish most of the goals I set for myself this season. Just missing the cut and not making State was tough, but I'm confident that my team and I will be there next year."
Setting goals allows an athlete to enter their season ready to get a job done; to really enter the season with a great mindset. Martin's mindset entering the season was "To do the best I can do- pushing myself to achieve personal goals, but also have fun with every race I compete in." With that mindset, Martin was able to perform to the best of his abilities and come out strong in every race he competed in in order to accomplish his goals. When asked what his biggest accomplishment this season had been, Martin said it was running sub-15 twice. "I've been working toward that goal since I started running cross. It was a big milestone."
Martin has already set goals for this offseason as well. His plan is to stay on top of his fitness and nutrition while also preparing himself for the upcoming track season.
Photo provided by Zach Martin
While running for his team, Martin has made plenty of memories that he will cherish for a long time to come. In fact, with another season left, there's no doubt that he will surely make plenty more memories that will last a lifetime. So far, though, Martin's favorite memory was drawn from freshman year. "That first season really helped me understand the hard work and commitment it takes to compete in a sport like this."
A Bright Future
Although Martin is not yet committed to a college running program, he is definitely wanting to run in college. Just like any other student-athlete looking to make it to the next level, Martin has an idea of what he hopes his future home will be like and what he is looking for in a program. "I hope to find a program that appreciates distance running with a coach that understands runners the way Coach Pierce does," Martin said. "The time he takes out of his day to constantly help us means a lot and makes you want to get better."
Martin is interested in broadcasting and hopes to look at schools that have that as a potential major. "It's something I've been experimenting with lately and it's really something I enjoy doing."
McKinney Boyd head cross country coach, Keith Pierce, had only outstanding things to say about Martin, his performance, and his presence on the team. "He is a tremendous leader on our team," coach Pierce told VYPE. "Zach represents everything that is awesome about the sport of cross country-- his worth ethic, discipline, and determination are second to none."
Who is your favorite professional sports team?
"The Dallas Stars."
If you could go to dinner with one person (dead or alive) who would it be? What would you want to talk about?
"I think one person I'd like to sit down with is Christ Stapleton. He's my favorite country singer and I feel like it'd be really interesting to sit and talk with him about what inspires him to write songs and how he makes his music."
For all the ways you love to play, Academy Sports and Outdoors makes it easier than ever to gear up and have fun out there! Get free shipping on your favorite brands at academy.com or get free curbside or in-store pick-up at your Academy store. Gear up this Winter at Academy Sports and Outdoors.
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