June 03, 2010
When it comes to football, few schools in the country have an alumni list that even compares to the stunning group of players that the Oaks Christian Lions have graduated. Just in the past five years, Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame/NFL), Marc Tyler (USC), Gatorade National Player of the Year Malcolm Jones (UCLA), Duke Lemmens (Florida), Nick Montana (Washington), Casey Matthews (Oregon), and Chris Owusu (Stanford) have gone from the high school football powerhouse to major college football programs.
The school once boasted an unprecedented 47 game winning streak that was snapped in 2007, and has won 3 state championships in the past 4 years, with the lone exception being a 42-41 heartbreaker to Gardena Serra last season. For a school that churns out major recruits at a staggering rate, the question is always the same. Whose next?
As a sophomore on varsity, an accomplishment in itself at a school like Oaks Christian, wide receiver Jordan Payton led the team with 45 receptions for 1088 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was named the sophomore of the year in California, and is considered to be the top receiver in the class of 2012 by many scouting services. He turned down SEC power LSU and just about the whole Pac-10 minus the Trojans, and committed to USC. Jordan Payton isn’t next, he’s already arrived.
From a very young age, Payton knew where he wanted to play football. “I grew up around the area, I love the whole atmosphere and I have always been an SC football fan. When I got the offer, I couldn’t think of any reason not to take it, so I committed. I always knew I wanted to play for USC,” Payton said.
The abrupt departure of longtime coach Pete Carroll and the hiring of his controversial replacement did nothing to sway Payton. “Coach Kiffin is a great guy, he’s a true players coach. He’s like Coach Carroll in a lot of ways, but he’s probably a little bit more offensive minded which is great for me,” he said. “I think I can do what past receivers at USC have done so well. I’m a lot like Dwayne Jarrett with my physicality, but I can also make plays after the catch like Steve Smith. My biggest strength on the football field is that I’m a very physical player for a receiver, but I also have good speed. I can’t wait to hit the field at USC and try and make an impact,” he said.
Before he does that, Payton has 2 years left to finish what he started at Oaks Christian.
“I came to Oaks Christian to win. That’s my favorite part of playing football and that’s also why I picked USC. I love winning and I hate losing,” Payton said. Last season, Oaks Christians season ended in shocking fashion, with a 42-41 loss to Serra in the state championship game, and Payton and the Lions desperately want to wipe away the bitter and rare memory.
“Everything is set in place for these next 2 years. We have an amazing coaching staff of almost all are NFL veterans who know what it takes to get us ready. We have a talented team of guys who want to win. The goal is to go 15-0 twice, win the whole thing both years, nothing less,” Payton said.
Such a feat is far from unrealistic for a team that once won 47 straight games, but Payton acknowledged that it won’t come easy. Last season, Payton was able to concentrate on racking up big numbers, while seniors such as Nick Montana led the team from a vocal standpoint. “I’m going to have to be a team leader, and take the things that I’ve learned from all the great players to go here like Jimmy and Marc and Nick and apply them to myself. It should be fun.”