2019 WR/CB Jaden Payoute has serious speed, but he says that's only part of the reason the Hokies were so interested in winning his commitment.
The rising senior out of Chesterfield's L.C. Bird HS does not lack for impressive credentials when it comes to proving just how fast he is. He's the state's 5A champion in the 100-meter dash, and has managed to run some sub-4.4 second 40-yard dashes in his day.
But, if Payoute wasn't also 6'3" and 195 pounds, he doubts he would've emerged as quite such an in-demand prospect for the Hokies.
"A lot of people my size don't have that breakaway speed, and that's what they said separated me from a lot of people," Payoute told The Key Play. "They said with my speed, they can really use me."
Justin Fuente certainly made the latter point clear in his tweet slyly celebrating Payoute's decision to commit to the Hokies on June 10; rather than simply saying the Hokies got better, as he normally does, he stressed that the team "just got faster."
"They hope I can be that gamechanger for them," Payoute said.
Indeed, Payoute was so taken with Fuente's plans for him at Tech that he didn't wait long to pick the Hokies. Tech only offered him on June 5, after all, though he says he was chatting with RBs coach Zohn Burden (his lead recruiter) for a while before then. In fact, he even says Burden tried to visit him at school a few months back, but the pair proved to be ships passing in the night.
Luckily, however, Payoute got the chance to head to Blacksburg last weekend to connect with Burden, Fuente and all the rest. He says he'd last visited Tech when he was just a freshman, and had yet to burst onto the recruiting scene, so this trip was just a bit different.
"When I was in ninth grade, I didn't have any offers, so I was just visiting with a friend, mostly for his visit, along with him," Payoute said. "So this time with it being my visit, it felt better...it felt like home."
It helped that one of Payoute's former teammates at L.C. Bird was in Blacksburg to welcome him in: LB Rayshard Ashby.
"I was with him a lot during my visit," Payoute said. "Any questions I had, he answered him. He was also honest about his answers. He wasn't like a car salesman, he was honest. He told me like, 'It's gonna be hard, but you just have to push through it and it's gonna be worth it.'"
Payoute says he got an even harder sell from some of the other 2019 commits on campus, like OG Jesse Hanson and high-profile CB Cam'Ron Kelly. He was particularly interested in hearing from Kelly, another in-state prospect who he says he's developed a "good relationship" with recently.
"He said it was the atmosphere, he said he loved it there," Payoute said.
Of course, it didn't hurt either that Payoute was particularly swayed by the coaching staff's message for him about how he could fit in at Tech. Payoute boasted offers from programs like Tennessee and Pittsburgh — and though he's currently unranked by the 247Sports Composite, 247Sports rated him as a 4-star prospect, the No. 2 recruit in VA for 2019 — yet he says he liked the message from the Hokies enough to commit on the spot.
"[Fuente] said he sees me hopefully coming in as a freshman and being a big part of things, and that really stuck out to me, really being a part of it my freshman year," Payoute said. "That's why it was so high on my list of schools."
Payoute says the Hokies primarily envision him at wide receiver, though he plays both ways at L.C. Bird and Tech's coaches suggested he might get the chance to do the same in Blacksburg. They even told Payoute that he might return punts someday, given that aforementioned speed.
"I've never returned before, that's what's crazy," Payoute said.
Payoute is also planning on making a speedy return to Virginia Tech, returning sometime in the "next two or three weeks" to get better acquainted with a school he's chosen so quickly.
"I'm planning on going to a game or two," Payoute said. "I will definitely come back up to Blacksburg."