Boys Varsity Football
Columbus North senior Jackson Payne announced that he has committed to Hanover College to continue his academic and athletic career.
Payne, a 6-0, 200-pound linebacker, plans to play football for the Panthers. Hanover is an NCAA Division III program that competes in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Other schools with football in the HCAC are Anderson University, Bluffton University (Ohio), Defiance College (Ohio), Franklin College, Manchester University, Mount St. Joseph University (Ohio) and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Hanover went 9-2 overall, won the HCAC championship at 7-0 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs last fall. The Panthers are coached by Matt Theobald, who enters his fifth season as the team’s head coach in 2020. Theobald is 24-18 with two D-III playoff appearances during his tenure as head coach of his alma mater.
“I liked the coaching staff, the scheme of their football team and the business program,” Payne said as his reasons for choosing Hanover. “I also liked how the scenery around campus is beautiful.”
Payne, who also considered Wabash College, talked with Theobald and defensive coordinator Aarik Gault as he evaluated the factors to make his college decision. He was told the Hanover coaches see him as an outside linebacker in the Panthers’ program.
“Coach Gault was my recruiting coordinator, and I have built a good relationship with him,” Payne said. “In addition to the football opportunity itself, I liked that they have a new weight room in place and other new facilities are coming soon, including new turf on the field.”
As a senior at Columbus North, Payne totaled 24 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and one pass broken up in a partial season because of injuries. As a junior, Payne was selected honorable mention all-Conference Indiana after he tallied 50 solos, 25 assists, two TFLs, two sacks, one quarterback pressure, two PBUs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He also was credited with a safety in a 9-7 victory over Roncalli as a junior.
Bull Dogs coach Tim Bless is pleased that Payne – who was injured while running in a unified track meet in the spring of 2019 – has received this opportunity at Hanover. Payne recovered to play five games last fall before aggravating the injury and missing the final team’s final two games.
“Jackson’s high school career was stunted because of an unfortunate injury in another sport, so I am thrilled for him to get to re-ignite his football career,” Bless said. “Hanover has become one of, if not, the best small-college football programs in the state. Jackson is going into a great situation, and his combination of competitive instincts and athleticism will give him legitimate opportunities to compete early for playing time.”
Payne is the third sibling in his family to pursue college football. Twin brothers Tanner and Tucker Payne, 2017 Columbus North graduates, each has played in college after playing for the Bull Dogs. Tanner is entering his fourth season as a defensive lineman at Rose-Hulman. Tucker played one season as a defensive back at Wabash, and he is entering his senior year as a student there.
“My brothers have had a huge influence on me,” Jackson Payne said. “Seeing all the hard work they put in during high school and going to college has inspired me to do the same. As for my decision, they said I couldn’t make a wrong choice with the schools I had it narrowed down to. They told me that I should trust my gut.”
Payne, who is looking at marketing or business management as a possible career, said that Bless and Bull Dogs assistant coach Jordan Sharp also assisted in navigating the recruiting process.
“Coach Bless and Coach Sharp, I can’t thank them enough,” Payne said. “They helped me on the field, in the weight room and in talking through various possibilities. They have helped me make a clear decision.”
Jackson Payne is the fourth Columbus North football player and the 17th CNHS athlete in the Class of 2020 to announce plans to pursue college athletics. He joins Mitchel Collier (Central Michigan), Jackson Davis (Butler University) and Landon Robbins (Valparaiso University) as Columbus North athletes who plan to play football at the next level.
A full list of Columbus North seniors who plan to pursue college athletics follows.
COLUMBUS NORTH CLASS OF 2020
Student, Sport, College Choice
* Annie Anderson, women’s golf, Rose-Hulman
* Brooke Bruin, softball, DePauw University
^ Casper Clark, baseball, Indiana University
# Mitchel Collier, football, Central Michigan
* Jackson Davis, football, Butler University
^ Caroline Hollenkamp, women’s soccer, Brandeis University (Mass.)
^ Betsy King, women’s swimming, Ball State
^ Olivia Morlok, women’s swimming, Ohio University
^ Sierra Norman, softball, Marian University
^ Lauren Opalka, volleyball, Muskingum University (Ohio)
* Jackson Payne, football, Hanover College
# Landon Robbins, football, Valparaiso University
* Adrienne Salemme, women’s track & field, Samford University (Ala.)
^ Erica Samuel, women’s swimming, Indiana Wesleyan
* Nicholas Schiavello, men’s basketball, Wheaton College
* Sydney Sluys, women’s cross country/track, Manchester University
^ Grant Trinkle, baseball, University of Kentucky
^ took part in ceremony on Nov. 13, 2019
# took part in ceremony on Dec. 18, 2019
* ceremony was to be in April 2020, ceremony canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic
Photo: Columbus North’s Jackson Payne (33) combines with Nick Holt (48) to pressure Terre Haute North quarterback Matt Gauer (2) during the Bull Dogs’ 21-3 victory on Sept. 27, 2019. Payne has announced he will attend Hanover College to play football.