Inside the Class of '06: Phillip Payne

The 4th in a daily series of interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '06: Signee Phillip Payne.

Phillip Payne
Wide receiver
South Garland High School
6-2/205/4.55
NR: 16 SR: 23 Star Rating: ****

An Inside Texas conversation with South Garland head coach Mickey Moss on Phillip Payne:

IT: What are Phillip’s strengths as a football player?

Moss: As a football player, his strengths are his size, his speed, his ability to do what he can do with the football once he gets his hands on it, and his willingness to learn. As a person, good heart, compassionate heart. Cares a lot about others. He's a really great kid.

IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Phillip?

Moss: I think just seeing what he could do with the ball once he had his hands on it. I think it helped looking at Phil's size, and they were impressed with the conversation, how Phil carried himself. And then the other thing that helped Phil, as a junior we looked at -- back in the third or fourth ball game, it struck me, Man, when this kid has the ball in his hands, he's like a tailback. So we played him a lot at tailback as a junior. So just his ability to be physical when he runs with the ball and the things he can do with the ball. Overall, I think a combination of size, speed, hands and running ability. You've got a lot of guys that can catch the ball, but you're not sure what they can do with it once they get it in their hands. He is a big boy that can catch and run pretty fast.

IT: As a receiver, did he have a signature pattern, or a route that he ran extremely well?

Moss: Well, for us, our team progressed a little bit different this year. We wanted to keep Phillip as an inside receiver so we could do a lot of motion in the backfield with him, keep him as a back and motion him out. Ya know, Phil wasn't getting a lot of time working on the fundamentals of receiver. He was spending too much time working at running back, and then we got to a point where we felt like we did not want two backs in the backfield out of the shotgun. We got to where we did a lot more one-back stuff, so we ended up moving Phil to the outside receiver, which he is more adapted to. With Phil, we'd run the tunnel screens. It's a wide receiver screen, catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage, in traffic, and he'd take it the distance. He was very exceptional at that.

IT: What kind of football speed does Phillip have?

Moss: I don't think he's deceptively fast, not like Vince Young, or not like the quarterback at Arkansas, Matt Jones, who was definitely deceptively fast. Phil's (speed) is pretty evident. He does have, not long strides, but when he gets to driving -- that goes back again to when the ball is in his hands, what he does with it. He hits another gear. He could probably go out there and run and run and run, and not be quite as fast as he is when he carries (the ball). He's the kind you want with the ball in his hands.

IT: Is there a want-to involved with that? A guy so good that once he got the ball in his hands...

Moss: He wanted the ball in his hands. Our problem, early on, was trying to find ways to do that. We struggled finding a quarterback early in the season. We knew that. And we knew that we had talented and gifted receivers. We had three kids coming back, Phil, Deron Montgomery and Brandon Strait. Well, Deron tears his knee up early in the season and we're struggling trying to find the right quarterback. We ended up with a sophomore and he wasn't ready. When it got to a point after four games, and game five with a sophomore starter at quarterback, that's when we started seeing a difference in Phil's production and the sort of numbers he started putting up.

IT: What are the things you think Phillip needs to work on to succeed at the next level?

Moss: His route running. Getting fundamentally better at running pass routes and getting off (the line). He got really good at bump-and-run coverage on the outside, but (he needs) practice there against a skill level that will be a lot better than what he's used to. But I think once he gets there he'll adapt really quick. Continually pushing himself to realize where he is at physically. Learning that you've got to constantly have that strive to improve yourself. Your standard is yourself, not other people. We can always find somebody that I'm better than. I might be better and more athletic than all the people but I think the good thing about going to The University of Texas is there are a lot of world class athletes, one. Two, a bunch of them have won a lot of football games. And we have to. That part I think Phil fits in, but I think that pushing him to that next level because physically, I think he has a bright future. I just don't think we have really tapped it...

IT: How does he feel about that in terms of work ethic? You look at him and he looks physically imposing, but is that something that he continually strives to improve?

Moss: Yeah, he can go in the weight room and he can do a couple of sets, and he swells up unbelievable. He comes out of there looking like a bodybuilder, and not after doing an hour worth of weights. We're talking 20 minutes, 30 minutes of weight work and he comes out like that! The good thing is, hopefully he'll get down there the first of June and he'll get an opportunity to get to know Maddog and adapt to the strength program, and I think when Phil gets in that environment, the level in which he gets pushed -- we pushed him but -- I'm hard on Phil. I know what expectations are for him in the future, to be what he's going to be. I love the kid. I love Phil. And Phil's personality allows you to get upset with him. He can handle that. He can handle a chewing. Some kids can't. Phil can. He can handle that and he uses that for motivation... Senior night was the last home game, and I thought Phil was mad at me. I feel like we've got to push a kid... Phil knows that's my role with him. I thought he was really mad because I was hard on him. I was hard on him about some things in the weight room, because of the position he was in and my expectations for him. But he came to me before the Longview game, and I thought he was mad at me, and he said, Coach, I just wanted to tell you that I didn't come hug your neck on senior night because I would have started crying. And that's the relationship we have.

IT: It sounds to me like what you just described is coachability...

Moss: Yeah, he's willing to be taught. He's willing to be coached. And he can handle the -- ya know, some kids, their personality type does not allow them to be yelled at, and you feel them go into a shell. Phil uses that for motivation. My recommendation to Bobby (Kennedy) was, Get after his butt, Bobby. He's not one of those guys that you've got to handle with kid gloves. Not only is he used to it, but that's just his nature and his personality. He can handle that. It doesn't phase him as far as embarrassment or anything like that.

IT: Was Phillip a leader for you guys, and if so, how did he lead?

Moss: Yes, but here's the deal with us. How could you choose which leaders? I've got a linebacker who's 5-8, best football player I've ever been around and he's 5-8. I've got a safety going to Missouri. Incredible kid. Never missed a single workout in his life until this summer when he went to summer camp. I had so many kids that way that Phil wasn't necessarily the man. He was just one of many guys that I expected to hold a standard for the team. Early in the season, we were struggling at 2-4, but I knew with the group of kids we had, Phil being one of them, that we had a chance to be really good and beat some good teams down the stretch once we got those other kids (playing well)...

IT: How does that prepare him well for what he's going to experience at Texas, where there is also lots of talent and leadership?

Moss: He's going to go in there, and his first job better be to listen, learn and watch the Limas Sweeds and those guys work, see how they compete. I told Bobby Kennedy, he called me one night, when Ramonce Taylor had the touchdown run, and what I noticed was Sweed knocking somebody to the ground, and that's what I pointed out to Phil, so Phil needs to get there and learn from those guys. He has the opportunity to play with some really great guys and learn about the intensity level that they play at and that they prepare at. So Phil will be a great team player. Phil's not going to be one of those guys that just takes charge. He's not one of those guys. He'll be a great team player, he'll be a hard worker, and hopefully ultimately be a contributor. I'm talking about going and playing with some of the best in the country.

IT: Is Phil ready to step in and play early?

Moss: I talked to him. Hey Phil, let's say you had four years of high school ball and you could have chose what four years you played. You came in as a ninth grader and we put you on varsity and that counted as one of your four years. I said, Now what if you didn't play as a ninth grader and you got to come back to our team next year? Imagine how really good you're gong to be. That's the same thing. Do you want to use that year as an 18-year old or use that year as a 22-year old, when you're more of a seasoned veteran.

IT: How did he respond?

Moss: [Laughs] He wants to do whatever. He's just happy to be a part of Texas. Phil is a kid, however the chips fall for him, he's going to take it and do whatever he has to do. He doesn't expect to come in and play immediately, but who knows, he might get thrown in that fire. To me personally, I think a redshirt year would be great for him... That would be a great opportunity to get adapted to college life... Learn how to self-discipline and not get in a situation where you are spending time on Sixth Street or not going to class, not turning your work in.

IT: What did Phillip mean to your football program?

Moss: His teammates looked at Phil like he gave us a chance to win. Against Longview, we had no business beating Longview. I looked at that game and said, How'd we win that game? Actually, How'd they lose to us is what I said. Phil had an awesome game. He really stepped up and played to that level. And as far as meaning to the team, Phil gave them, Hey, this kid can make a big play at any moment, take it to the house and win the game for us. It was that game, the next week at Lake Highlands, even at Lufkin. Took a tunnel screen up the sideline 70 yards. Just smoked every one of them. Lufkin. Here's the neat thing about Lufkin when we played them this year. The field speed that Lufkin played out was just a notch above what we played at. If they wouldn't have lost that quarterback, Southlake Carroll might not have won that state championship. Phil, he left them in the dust. Even then we knew we could get right back in that game. Unfortunately we didn't, but Phil meant that to the players. He gave them a belief that whatever game we're in, we can win this game.

IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Phillip's ability as a football player?

Moss: W.T. Wyatt his junior year. He just really exploded, came on the scene as a wide receiver. And a lot of that had to do with the coverage W.T. Wyatt was doing, a three-deep coverage, so we hit two inside verticals to Phil who made a great catch on the run and ran through the DBs like they weren't even there. I was like, Wow! At that point, that's when everybody knew this kid had an opportunity to be really special.

Also see: UT To Reap Benefits Of Payne's Growth Agenda

More exclusive Phillip Payne photos

UT's Signing Day bio: A two-time all-district performer and three-year letterman who split time between wide receiver and running back … would line up in the I-formation when South Garland would go to its running game and would split wide in their spread formation … made 64 catches for 907 yards and seven TDs and carried the ball 121 times for 591 yards and 13 TDs over his final two seasons … earned all-region and all-district (11-5A) honors as a senior … named to Dave Campbell's Super Team first team prior to the season … caught 47 passes for 601 yards and four TDs and rushed for 224 yards and four TDs on 61 carries while leading South Garland to the Regional semis that year … had seven catches for 94 yards and a TD and took another reception to the one-yard line in South Garland's 14-13 upset of Longview, who was ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 8 in the country, in the first round of the playoffs … added five receptions for 111 yards in a playoff loss to Lufkin … earned all-district (11-5A) as a junior … made 17 catches for 306 yards and three TDs and rushed for 367 yards and nine TDs on 60 carries … had four receptions for 197 yards and two TDs against W.T. White … read to elementary school students and participated in Angel Tree, where small groups of football players would adopt a needy child and provide toys and other items … also spent time at an elementary school conducting a form of student teaching … interested in becoming a teacher … was involved in his church choir and youth group … enjoys playing video games … full name is Philip A. Payne … born on Jan. 21, 1988 in Dallas, Texas.

"I liked the atmosphere and the family vibe. When I was there, it just felt like home. The players were fun and everybody was just cool."

NEXT UP: JARED NORTON

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