The Pioneer Football League named its major award winners for the 2013 season on Monday and the Stetson Hatters were represented in that select group of honorees by Donald Payne.
Payne, a redshirt freshman defensive back from Fayetteville, Ga., was named the league’s Defensive Freshman of the Year.
The other league award winners for 2013 included San Diego senior quarterback Mason Mills, who was named Offensive Player of the Year; Marist senior defensive lineman Terrence Fede, who was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year; Mercer quarterback John Russ, who was named Freshman Offensive Player of the Year; and Marist head coach Jim Parady who, in his 22nd season led the Red Foxes to a share of their first PFL title in five years of league membership.
Payne set the tone for his season very early in the year. He was named the Pioneer Football League Defensive Player of the Week following each of the Hatters’ first three games in 2013.
“Clearly he is deserving of all the accolades,” Stetson coach Roger Hughes said. “He was our premier player all year and was a player who forced other teams to game plan just for him.”
Against Warner, in the 2013 season opener, Payne had seven total tackles, including two for losses of nine yards. That total also included a sack/forced fumble. The signature play of the game for both Payne and the Hatters was when he pounced on a fumble end the end zone for a touchdown on the first Warner snap following a more than 19-hour weather delay.
That performance not only earned league honors, but also garnered national Freshman of the Week accolades from The Sports Network.
Payne came back strong the next week at Florida Tech, recording 14 tackles. He also recorded the first of his two interceptions on the year in that game and had a season best four pass breakups.
When the Hatters returned home after an off week, Payne picked up right where he left off. Against Birmingham-Southern he had seven tackles, including 1.5 for losses of 19 yards. In addition, he forced two fumbles, recovered one for another touchdown, and had an interception.
“The thing about Donald is that he wasn’t just a blitzer,” Hughes said. “He was also one of our better guys in the secondary. He made plays on the ball, had interceptions and made tackles on the back end of our defense as well as at the line.”
Like all of the Hatters, Payne went through some growing pains during the year, but he continued to be productive throughout the season.
“Donald had a lot success, not just on the field but also in terms of national recognition, early in the year,” Hughes said. “I think that made him think that he needed to make every play. As the season wore on he grew to understand better that he just needed to do his job. It took him a little white to grow into that role.”
Down the stretch, Payne recorded double figure tackle totals in four of the Hatters’ last five games, recording nine stops in the season finale at Mercer.
Payne finished the year with a team-high 113 tackles, including 71 solo stops. He tied with Drake’s John Hugunin for most overall tackles in the PFL and led the league in solo stops. He ranked second in the PFL with 16 tackles for losses of 86 yards including 4.5 sacks, which tied for 16th in the league. He forced two fumbles and recovered three, had a pair of interceptions and was credited with 12 pass breakups. He ranked third in the PFL in passes defended.
Nationally, Payne ranks 27th in fumbles recovered, 10th in passes defended, fifth in solo tackles, 16th in tackles for loss and13th in total tackles. Those ranking may change as statistics for players still competing in the FCS playoffs will continue to accrue during the next three weeks.The Pioneer Football League will announce it’s All-Conference teams on Tuesday afternoon.