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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame RB Gi'Bran Payne Finding Comfort, Gaining Confidence

August 18, 2022

Running back Gi’Bran Payne was set to be an Indiana Hoosier.

The four-star prospect signed his letter of intent and then saw running backs coach Deland McCullough leave the Indiana program for Notre Dame. 

Payne didn’t make an impulse decision, but one that involved much thought and reflection. 

“Notre Dame was already in my top five before I committed the first time,” stated Payne. “I had a lot of long talks with family and coaches at Indiana. Probably about a month after that, I had finally requested my release and I got fully released.”

When the Ohio native reached out to McCullough, it didn’t require much thought from the Notre Dame running backs coach as he knew Payne was a great fit for his room. 

“Once he was cleared to talk to other schools, he reached out to me and everything took off from there,” McCullough explained. “I knew the type of player I was getting and the type of person I was getting. I knew he would fit in well here at Notre Dame.”

It was a situation Payne didn’t expect to find himself in as his recruitment had been over for months, so he had to start from step one. However, there was plenty of interest and Notre Dame quickly rose to the top. 

"I got back on the radar and a lot of coaches came into contact,” said Payne. “Notre Dame was actually probably one of the last ones to come in contact. I took a visit to Kentucky and I had other visits set up, but I ended up canceling. 

"Notre Dame called. I came on a visit and loved it. The relationship I already had with Coach D made it a no-brainer for me." 

McCullough’s room isn’t the deepest, but regardless of depth, he expected Payne to come to South Bend ready to contribute. 

"The process as far as putting the whole room together, it begins with building it from the bottom up,” McCullough stated. “We know how this game is and how things work out for running backs. Guys get chipped up. The last thing I want is Gi'Bran Payne to have a 'Hey, we're going to develop him over time.' The next thing you know, we get a guy chipped up and the first time he's playing is the second half against Ohio State and we haven't evaluated him properly. 

"He's getting the full eval right now and he's doing very, very well with that." 

Payne will be the first to admit he’s pleased with the reps, but that college football has also been a tough transition as a June arrival. 

"My transition to college was kind of hard in the beginning,” said Payne. “I think I'm doing well now. The older guys tell me to push through every day. They're definitely a big help.” 

The rough start was expected as McCullough has seen freshmen and rookies struggle over the first week of the rise in play. 

“He started off the first day, the guys are graded and he was at 30 percent,” McCullough recalled. “He really had a down first day, which is to be expected for a guy's first time. Understanding the standard and expectations - he went on and finished yesterday over 87 percent, which gives an indication of what he did the next several days as far as his consistency and attention to detail - technique and playing with all the fundamentals.

“I've really been happy with him and the way he's been moving around. I put him out there with the ones today to do some tempo. I like to stress guys out and see what the new guys can do. He handled that well.” 

Payne credits McCullough for pushing him, but also the veterans in the running back room as it’s a healthy competition without egos. Chris Tyree, Audric Estime and Logan Diggs have all played a part in helping Payne adjust to college and it’s something that’s been greatly appreciated. 

"The older guys have played a big brother role for me, which is making sure knowing where I need to be and what I need to do - being in the right places at the right time,” Payne stated. “That's helping me become better and the player I am." 

When it comes to his role on the 2022 team, Payne is continuing to work towards earning carries, but don’t be surprised to see him get some early work on special teams. 

"I'm definitely on the depth chart for one of the returners,” said Payne. “That is a role you can expect to see me in this season and in my career." 

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