The Valley View defense was one of the driving forces that pushed the Eagles to the state semifinal game and Payton Strawn was at the center of that defense.
Strawn used his strong senior season to gain some collegiate attention and last week, he secured his football future when he signed his national letter of intent to play at McPherson College in Kansas.
Strawn said he is overjoyed at the opportunity he has in front of him.
“I’m pretty excited and I get to keep doing what I love,” Strawn said. “Then I get an education. That’s probably the more important part. I’m excited. I’ll have a step up in life for just doing what I love and one of my hobbies got me to where I want to be. It’s been a dream for a long time, probably all of high school.”
He had a few other offers, but once he and his family visited McPherson, he felt it was a good fit.
“They contacted me and they said, hey do you want to come out here,” Strawn said. “It’s not too far away and just the right distance from home. We went out there and talked to the coaches. We liked the community. The coaches gave me an offer and I thought about it and here we are.”
Valley View head football coach Curtis King said the Eagles were able to use Strawn’s versatility throughout the season.
“He was kind of unique because we played him at defensive tackle and linebacker,” King said. “He was a linebacker, but we told him at the beginning of the year that we needed him to play some tackle. He was undersized to play tackle, but he was one of our better linemen that we had this year.”
The adjustments the Eagles were able to make as the play was about to begin were very important, according to King.
“It was huge because a lot of the things we did, we switched sets based on how the offense lined up,” King said. “When we made the call on the first defense, if they came out in a different set that we weren’t ready for, we could switch him to linebacker or tackle without having to make a sub from the bench while the play was getting ready to happen.”
Strawn said this season was the best one he’s ever had.
“Once we beat Muenster, all the guys thought we could do this,” Strawn said. “That confidence took us to where we got. The whole team really did well. The offense did well and the defense coordinated well as well. We kept building our confidence and kept riding that wave with all the support of the town, I think that’s what got us there. It was amazing.”
King said Strawn’s work ethic was never in question and credited his commitment for his success.
“In summer conditioning, he was here every day,” King said. “He got a little injured and I think he missed the first game of the year, but he worked his butt off. He deserves the opportunity to play college football and he earned it. It wasn’t given to him. There was nothing easy about it because he was often playing against a kid that was 100 pound heavier than him. He never complained and did everything we asked him to do.”
Strawn knows that before he plays college football that he has much more work to put in.
“I feel like I won’t be too much different from high school,” Strawn said. “It will probably be more advanced and there is a lot more trust on the players. I’m really going to have to study the coverages. When I get out of school, I want to gain like 20 or 30 more pounds and more muscle.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip