“I can’t practice or play. . . it’s pretty rough,” Payne said in an interview with the Post last Friday. “I went to Woodson for three years, I went to Phelps my ninth-grade year, and there has never been a problem. But the first week before the first game, it’s a problem and I can’t play now? So I don’t know.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, Walter Payne said his son has been living with a great aunt in the District since his freshman year, when he was a student at Phelps before transferring to H.D. Woodson in 2011. She had enrolled Payne at Woodson in the subsequent two years, the elder Payne said, but he remained the legal guardian despite carrying residency in Landover, Maryland.
Per rules established by the District of Columbia State Athletic Association, any DCPS decision regarding a student’s athletic eligibility must to be summarized in an official report and sent to the state office, according to DCSAA Director of Athletics Clark Ray.
“By rule [DCPS officials] are supposed to submit to the state athletic office any documentation and a summary, a report, as to what went into making an eligibility determination,” Ray said, “and we haven’t received anything yet.”
On Thursday, Walter Payne was in the process of trying to establish residency in the District in order to re-enroll his son at H.D. Woodson, he said. Payne withdrew from the school on Wednesday, according to his father, but is not entertaining the idea of enrolling and playing football at another area school this fall.
“If he don’t play for Woodson, he don’t want to play anywhere. It’s Woodson or nothing,” Walter Payne said, adding that the family will consider home-schooling him so he can graduate this winter if he is not able to re-enroll at the school in Southeast. “Knowing that he’s not in school at this time, you know, that’s another issue. He’s missing time, and his future is pretty much up for grabs at this point. . . there’s a lot of stress going on right now within the family.”
The school’s interim principal, Darrin Slade, did not respond to a request for comment, and athletic director LaQurisha Gray directed questions about Payne’s status to DCPS athletic director Stephanie Evans, who also declined comment.
“I’ve been here since ’99. It seems like a yearly thing,” said Scott, who took over the head coaching role midway through last season after former coach Greg Fuller was fired by DCPS for use of an ineligible player. “It’s just one of those things you just have to deal with. That’s why we always have to coach the next guy up. ”
Payne has had a whirlwind year. He transferred away from H.D. Woodson to Friendship Collegiate last winter, but transferred back to Woodson late in the spring. He verbally committed to Tennessee in April, ending an intense recruiting period in which he collected over 30 scholarship offers.
He cemented his place as one of the city’s best players in 2012, recording four interceptions and four punt returns for touchdowns for the Warriors. Payne scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams as a junior.
Payne did not travel to watch Woodson’s opener in West Virginia last week, instead opting to spend Labor Day weekend in Knoxville to take in the Volunteers’ first game of the season against Austin Peay. He plans to enroll at the school in January, he said, adding that potentially missing his senior season of high school football this fall will not have any effect on his plans to play at Tennessee. He notified the Volunteers coaching staff of his status last week.
“I told them. . . and they were saying that they were going to support me and that what happened doesn’t have anything [to do with playing at Tennessee],” Payne said. “And I really appreciate that.”