Donald Payne Making a Difference for Jacksonville Jaguars

Donald Payne, wearing his Jacksonville Jaguars uniform, readies for a play on the football field.

Jaguars undrafted rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole has made headlines with his play over the last three weeks. However, it turns out that he isn’t the only small-school undrafted rookie making a difference for the Jaguars this season.

photo montage of his portrait in Jaguars shirt and action shot on the field, blocking another player
Donald Payne (@7PayneTrain) has made his mark for the Jacksonville Jaguars by downing punts and stopping returns. Photos by Jacksonville Jaguars/Rick Wilson

Stetson alum Donald Payne has been a standout on special teams for Jacksonville. The former college safety has served on the Jaguars’ kickoff and punt return coverage units since being claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens prior to Week 1.

Payne currently leads the team with 10 special teams tackles.

“I’m trying to prove every week that I can play on the NFL level,” Payne said recently. “Every day I go out there on Sunday and try to make a special teams tackle and try to make a difference on special teams.”

Payne has played roughly 44 percent of the Jaguars’ special teams snaps. He has made his mark by downing punts and stopping returns.

Donald Payne on the football field, raises his hands to rev up the crowd.
Donald Payne was a three-time Stetson All-American safety and became the first Hatter to sign with an NFL team in the modern era.

Much like Cole’s experiences coming from Kentucky Wesleyan, Payne has had to adapt quickly to a much more competitive atmosphere. His work in the game’s third phase has helped him find his place on an NFL roster.

“It’s been a huge whirlwind for me,” said the former Stetson All-American.

“A lot of new things that I’ve never seen before. Just this type of atmosphere. A lot these guys came from big universities like Texas, Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma and I came from a DI-AA school.”

Special teams work makes a huge difference in the postseason. A mistake in the game’s third phase can lead to a loss in a close playoff matchup.

Donald Payne in Jaguars uniform runs down the field.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Donald Payne (52) looks for a play against the Seattle Seahawks in a NFL game Sunday, December 10, 2017, in Jacksonville. (Rick Wilson/Jacksonville Jaguars)

Payne will play a key role on special teams during the Jaguars’ playoff push. He will need to continue to perform at a high level following a successful rookie campaign.


-Published by First Coast News – WTLV/WJXX TV in Jacksonville on Dec. 21, 2017, and reprinted with permission.