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2019 Kennedy Award winner Ethan Payne set to run with the Herd

(Story by Taylor Kennedy)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Former Poca Dot Ethan Payne leaves behind a storybook career at Poca, and he is now beginning his next chapter under a new coaching staff at Marshall University.

Former Thundering Herd head football coach Doc Holliday was a big recruiter in bringing Payne to Cabell County. Payne had committed to Marshall last July expecting to play under Holliday. Holliday had been told earlier this year his contract would not be renewed. Charles Huff, former Alabama associate head coach, was announced as the new Thundering Herd head coach 13 days after Holliday left.

“I was set,” stated the Curt Warner Award winner on if the thought of leaving came up. “I never thought about opening my recruiting back up. I knew Coach Huff came from a good program in Alabama. Once I got down here, I could tell he came from Alabama because the practice was intense. We are in good hands right now.”

When Payne and Coach Huff officially met for the first time, they immediately hit it off.

“It was special,” noted Payne. “He wanted to run through a brick wall while talking to me. That is when you know that is who you want to play for.”

Payne rushed 93 times for 806 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in only four games his senior season with the Dots. He will be competing against bigger and stronger players in college.

“My flexibility,” Payne stated on what he wants to improve on this offseason. “I did not realize how flexible our guys are. That will help me going into the season.

“That happens by adjusting to different offenses and more calls.”

Payne spent the bulk of his prep career in the backfield. He excelled at the running back position running for over 5,700 yards and 83 touchdowns. 

“I have the speed to break long ones and the power to run over somebody,” Payne noted on what he brings to the table.

Payne held one offer to play college football last summer. That one offer came from the Thundering Herd. Payne announced his decision last July with an unclear answer as to what recruiting would look like his senior year.

“I had no idea if I would be recruited because we could not have a football season,” said the 2019 Kennedy Award winner. 

Payne helped lead the Dots to the state football playoffs two of the four seasons. Poca only lost two games in Payne’s last two seasons. He missed the end of his sophomore season due to an injury. 

“If I did not get hurt my sophomore year, I would have dreamed it like I did growing up,” said Payne on his career with Poca. “Growing up and watching high school games, I told myself that I wanted to do that and achieve this and that. I set my goals my freshman year, and I pretty much achieved them all.”

Ethan played three seasons with his younger brother Toby on the gridiron and hardwood. Toby is heading into his senior season, and he holds 12 offers, including Marshall.

“It was special,” noted Payne. “You won’t think about it until it is over with. Hopefully, I will see him in green next year.”

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