Last weekend’s college football game between the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats and No. 22 UCLA Bruins – like many huge Pac-12 battles – should have been of particular interest to Californian high school football fans because of the way it showcased what these kids can do so close to home.
The Bruins started Jordan Payton as their No. 1 wide receiver, an Oaks Christian High School grad from nearby Westlake Village who is having a breakout year. Payton had six catches for 119 yards and one touchdown to bring is season totals to 53 catches for 783 yards this season, to go with seven touchdowns. He has been quarterback Brett Hundley’s favorite target on the year, and is the primary receiver in an offense that before last week was 34th in the nation in passing yards.
Payton has been a winner since grade school. He was his school’s Offensive Player of the Year in every season from 2009 to 2011, and scored a record 18 touchdowns in his sophomore year. After building years in the college game in 2012 (202 yards, one touchdown) and 2013 (440 yards, one touchdown), Payton is finally having the kind of season that was expected of him when he was drafted as the 19th-ranked recruit in the state.
Although UCLA already had one win against a Top 25 team (Arizona State), the win against the Wildcats should cement the Bruins’ reputation as a big game team, and improve their odds of winning the 2015 BCS National Championship, which can be seen here.
While obviously Payton is just one example of the big range of things that can happen to California college prospects, it’s exciting to see a young man who was so recently making plays on high school fields take the national spotlight in a huge game.