After being selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, Jordan Payton felt compelled to listen to some music by Kid Cudi.
It was a fitting soundtrack for the Santa Monica product’s “Pursuit of Happiness” considering the recording artist hails from Cleveland, the city Payton intends to inhabit after being chosen by the Browns as the 154th overall pick.
Now, the standout UCLA wide receiver is ready to show the franchise he has the “Heart of a Lion” and the work ethic of a professional player.
“I am extremely grateful and extremely blessed,” he said during a media conference call after being drafted. “Me and my family have been waiting a long time for this, not just today but in my lifetime with how hard I have worked. I am excited. It is definitely the greatest day in my life.”
Payton was one of eight UCLA players taken in this year’s draft and one of three Pac-12 products chosen by Cleveland, which also picked USC quarterback Cody Kessler and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III.
Payton will likely have to prove his worth as he vies for playing time. He was part of a Browns draft class that included several fellow receivers in Baylor’s Corey Coleman, Auburn’s Ricardo Louis, Princeton’s Seth DeValve and Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins.
“Playing receiver is just about doing your job, and that is something that I am going to be bringing to the Cleveland Browns,” the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Payton said. “I will be bringing that blue-collar mentality as someone who really gets after it. I am not scared to go through the middle and I’m not scared to do the dirty work on things. Every game and every practice, that is what I bring. That is what I emphasize.”
Born in Torrance, Payton attended Westlake Village-Oaks Christian for high school. He was a four-year varsity player and an all-CIF honoree, catching 61 passes for 769 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. But he makes it clear where his hometown loyalties lie.
“SANTA MONICA made me,” his Twitter profile reads.
Payton made a near-immediate impact at UCLA and developed into one of the school’s most decorated receivers ever. He became the Bruins’ all-time reception leader with 201 catches, finished his college career with 33 consecutive starts and made at least one catch in his final 29 games over three seasons. He also tied the program record for catches in a single game (14).
With the relocation of the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, Payton a few months ago expressed interest in playing for Southern California’s new team. But he said he’s looking forward to playing for Browns coach Hue Jackson in part because his mentor, former NFL wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, also worked with Jackson in the pros.
“It is going to be an unbelievable year for me, an unbelievable career for me with Cleveland,” he said. “I am excited to take on this next step of my life. I can’t wait to get out there.”
In the two months leading up to the NFL Draft, which included his pro day at UCLA, Payton shared his anticipation for starting his career in the professional ranks.
March 1: “More determined and focused than ever.” March 21: “Keep the stock rising.” April 3: “Excited to see what team drafts me.” April 30: “Cleveland!! Can’t wait to get it going.”