American Football Database
Michael Payton
Date of birth: (1970-03-05)March 5, 1970
Place of birth: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Date of death: September 27, 2018(2018-09-27) (aged 48)
Career information
Position(s): QB
High school: Central Dauphin East
Career highlights and awards
Playing stats at
College Football Hall of Fame
Military service
Awards: 1992 Walter Payton Award

Michael Payton (March 5, 1970 – September 27, 2018) was an American football quarterback. He played college football for the Marshall Thundering Herd at Marshall University. He was the recipient of the 1992 Walter Payton Award, which is bestowed annually upon Division I-AA's most outstanding player. After college, he played one season in the Arena Football League for the Florida Bobcats.

College football

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Payton attended Central Dauphin East High School and was spotted by Marshall University coach George Chaump.[1][2] Payton originally intended to play for Chaump at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and had an apartment rented there. However Chaump switched to Marshall University and asked Payton to join him there. Payton was set on IUP but his father told him to go and look at Marshall's campus and to reconsider as Marshall played in a higher college football league. Payton went to Marshall and because of the quality of the staff, the campus and the football programme decided to attend.[3] He later said, "I loved the place and loved the people. They stand behind the athletes."[4]

Chaump left in 1989 but Payton remained.[3] As a sophomore in 1990, he completed 199 of 347 passes for 2,409 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.[5] In 1991, he completed 222 passes on 346 attempts for 3,392 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.[5][6][3] That season, he led Marshall to the NCAA Division I championship game, where the Herd finished as runners-up.[7] Payton also set the Division I-AA record for season passing efficiency and was named Southern Conference Player of the Year.[8][9] Payton was also West Virginia Athlete of the Year and Man of the Year for 1991.[9]

In 1992, he completed 268 passes on 415 attempts for 3,610 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.[10] He was awarded the Walter Payton Award for that year and was a consensus first-team All-American.[11][9][12] Payton again led Marshall to the I-AA title contest,[13] where they defeated Youngstown State in the 1992 NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship Game, giving Marshall their first I-AA title.[14] He was again named Southern Conference Player of the Year, West Virginia Athlete of the Year and Man of the Year.[9] Payton finished his college tenure as the Southern Conference's all-time career passing leader, and received the Walter Payton Award, which is given annually to the best player in Division I-AA football.[15] Payton is Marshall's fourth highest ever passer with 9.411 career yards-gained (exceeding the previous record by more than 2,300 yards) and their fifth highest all-time scorer with 69 career touchdowns.[16][3] At Marshall, he played frequently with future New England Patriots receiver Troy Brown.[3]

Professional career

After graduating from college Payton had a brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent but his time there was cut short by compartment syndrome, which caused numbness in one of his feet.[17][3] Payton collapsed after a couple of months in Dallas and was in danger of losing his leg. He returned to practice within three weeks but was dropped by Dallas days later.[3] Afterwards Payton played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.[3]

Payton played for one season in the Arena Football League. He played as a back-up quarterback for the Florida Bobcats in 1996. That year, he completed three passes on 17 attempts and threw one interception.[18]

Payton was inducted in the Marshall University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.[10][4] In January 2015, Payton was one of 17 players elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.[19]

Personal life

Payton was active with the charities Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. He was also a senior counsellor for Alternative Rehabilitation Communities, a personal trainer and life coach. Payton was also a voter in the FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll.[1]


Payton died on September 27, 2018, from cancer.[16] He had received twelve separate treatments for the disease.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Michael Payton, former C.D. East and Marshall football great, dies at 48". Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Former Marshall QB great Michael Payton dies at 48". Charleston Gazette Mail. September 28, 2018. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Sotelo, Tony. "College Football Hall of Fame Nominee Michael Payton". Bleacher Report. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Six inducted into 18th Athletic Hall of Fame, Marshall University, November 2, 1999.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Record Book (PDF), 2006 Marshall Football Media Guide, p. 106, Marshall University, 2006.
  6. The next great quarterback?, Marshall University, Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  7. SPORTS PEOPLE: COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Marshall Star Is No. 1, The New York Times, December 15, 1992.
  8. College Football Around the Nation, The New York Times, November 24, 1991.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Clay, Jarrod. "Marshall University football great Michael Payton dies at 48". WVAH. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Herd great Michael Payton dies." (in en). Associated Press. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  11. "Former Marshall quarterback Michael Payton dies". USA Today. September 27, 2018. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  12. "Former Marshall quarterback Michael Payton dies". Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  13. COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Majors's New Pitt Has One Old Name, The New York Times, August 22, 1993.
  14. "Marshall tops Youngstown St. on last-second field goal, 31-28". News Record. AP (North Hills, Pennsylvania): p. C6. December 20, 1992. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  15. Marshall QB Wins Payton Award[dead link], Deseret News, December 15, 1992.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Farlow, Rick. "Former Herd quarterback Michael Payton dies at 48 – The Parthenon". The Marshall Parthenon. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  17. Herald-Dispatch, Tim Stephens The. "Former Marshall QB great Michael Payton dies at 48" (in en). Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  18. Michael Payton, ArenaFan Online, Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  19. Former Herd Star Michael Payton to Enter College Football Hall of Fame, WSAZ, January 9, 2015.

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