September 6, 2004
Freshman Jeremy Payton had no idea he would play offense and defense for Arizona State in his college football debut last Thursday night.
"In the game, I thought I'd play just defense," he said.
That is where he had spent most of his time since senior cornerback R.J. Oliver was lost for the season with a foot injury. Oliver was injured during the last scrimmage at Camp Tontozona.
But Payton took a pair of snaps on offense as a receiver, catching a 7-yard pass, in the Sun Devils' 41-9 win over Texas-El Paso at Sun Devil Stadium.
While he was running off the field with the offense, cornerbacks coach Mark Carrier then told him he would be back on the field with the defense next.
"It was an experience," he chuckled.
Thus, Payton became the first Sun Devil to play both ways since former coach Bruce Snyder had running back J.R. Redmond and cornerback Jason Simmons go both ways in the 1997 Sun Bowl against Iowa.
Those instances, though, were marked by a one-game circumstance.
With quarterback Ryan Kealy out with a knee injury, ASU holstered the air game to concentrate on the ground. Simmons came in to run the option near the goal line.
Redmond always wanted to play defense, his first love, so Snyder allowed him to practice there during bowl preparation to keep him happy.
With Payton, "They're trying to figure out where they want to put me," he said.
"We're cheating him a little bit," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We threw him in there to play offense, and he hadn't practiced there all week."
Payton prefers offense, which is one reason why he signed with ASU.
"But I'd rather play whichever (position) one gets me on the field first," he said.
Payton was only doing what he did last season at South Hills High School in Covina, Calif. He and his twin brother, Bryan, a cornerback at Oregon State, played opposite sides at wide receiver and cornerback.
Payton had to change his number from 24 to 14 because of his new role.
Devil back Lamar Baker also wears No. 24. NCAA rules allow duplicate numbers, but the players can't play on the same side of the ball.
Asked about the mind-set of playing receiver and cornerback, Payton said, "I'm relaxed on offense. It's more natural. On defense, I have to make sure I know what I'm doing. I have to think about it more."
Payton said he was nervous when he lined up as a cornerback.
"I was afraid as soon as I came in they'd try to throw deep on me," he said.
The nervousness wore off when he made a tackle, he said.
Payton will continue to work with the defense.
"We just need his body at cornerback," Koetter said.
That's OK with Payton. He'd also like to work with the offense as well.
"If it was up to me," he said, "I'd try to play both ways."