April 17, 2007
Written by Becky Buchanan, ULM Alumni Association intern
Coach Devone Payne, Football Coach (1954-57)
At then-Northeast Louisiana State College people looked to Coach Devone Payne for a miracle, and that is exactly what they found. The outlook for the 1954 football season was not favorable, but he made it work. In just three short years, Coach Payne was named Gulf States Conference "Coach of the Year" in 1956, leading the Indians to an 8-2 record, including a key 7-0 win over Louisiana Tech. Payne went on to receive the Pop Warner Award in 1958.
Payne played football for Louisiana College. At LC, he led the nation in scoring and was considered one of the best halfbacks in the nation. He was recognized early for his uncanny ability to motivate his fellow athletes. Howard was honored as a Little All-American, honorable mention on several All-America teams, All-Time College Eleven, president of the Cadmium Literary Society, vice-president of his senior class, most athletic and football team captain. He was also the first inductee to the LC Hall of Fame.
Payne began his coaching career at the high school level. He coached for 15 years before returning to be the head football coach of Louisiana College. After two years of coaching the Wildcats, Coach Payne decided to take the position as the head coach of NLSC.
Payne was an inspiration to the program when the university needed hope. The Payne Touch brought together a team full of walk-ons creating a family of young men who struggled and grew together to come out on top. During his lifetime, Payne touched the lives of many. Not only did the team of 1956 have the most hall of fame players than any other year, but they also had the most players in coaching and teaching in Louisiana at one time. His "boys" continue to admire him and look forward to having his memory honored with the 2007 ULM Sports Hall of Fame induction.
"He was tough," said Mr. Billy Laird, a member of the 1955-56 teams. "He got the best that he could out of every player. But I think that we appreciated him a lot more after we left."