WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. - Playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has been a longtime dream for Jordan Payton and it finally became a reality Wednesday when the Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian wide receiver was presented with his game jersey during a ceremony at his high school.
One of Payton's biggest goals has been reached.
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"Like I've been saying it's a dream come true," Payton said. "I've been fighting, pushing and working hard to get to this point in my life and I'm finally here. I'm going to be working even harder to prepare for the game.
"I was walking out and I saw the Army guys and I got to the church and I said, 'It's finally here. Thank God.'"
Rated as the No. 18 wide receiver and No. 118 in the 2012 class by Rivals.com, Payton said he's mostly excited to play in the Army game because he will have the opportunity to showcase his abilities against many of the nation's top players. Competing against the best is definitely a big reason why Payton is so thrilled to be playing in the game.
Having the opportunity to compete at the highest level is exactly what the Army Bowl offers - top players from around the country getting after it for an entire week in San Antonio.
"It's a number of things like putting my talent against the East Coast talent and going out and competing," Payton said.
"Another thing is it's something you never really thought would become true but you kept dreaming and you kept working hard to get there. Now it's finally here and it's something so big and so real and you just can't believe it."
Payton, a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, will have at least one familiar face with him in San Antonio since Oaks Christian teammate Ishmael Adams was also selected to play in the Army game. Adams is a four-star cornerback who's rated No. 11 at his position and No. 119 in the 2012 class.
"It's definitely going to be a blessing to be with Ishmael, one of my good friends, to play alongside of him and watch him shut down people from the East Coast and he could watch me," Payton said. "It's going to be a great time."
The next few months should be an exciting time for Payton not only as his senior season continues and he prepares for the Army game but because recruiting has picked up in a big way.
After de-committing from USC this summer many other national programs have gotten involved and a recent trip to Michigan for its thrilling win against Notre Dame has catapulted the Wolverines to No. 1 on his list.
Payton said the atmosphere in Ann Arbor was the best he'd ever seen at a college football game.
"They're definitely in the leading spot right now," Payton said. "It was a great trip, I enjoyed everything about it. It was an insane game and the atmosphere was just great."
The Oaks Christian standout is sure to see other great venues in the coming months. Payton has scheduled a trip to Notre Dame for its game against USC on Oct. 22 and he'll be at Penn State when it plays Nebraska on Nov. 12.
A trip to Oklahoma had been considered but Payton said he probably won't visit with the Sooners. Visits to Cal and Arizona State are also strong possibilities but the four-star receiver hasn't scheduled those yet.
No specific date has been figured out for Payton's commitment but he will sure be busy over the next couple months. There are a lot of visits to take and things to consider as he reviews each school to find the best fit.
A big trip to the Army game is now on his schedule as well.