Today’s post celebrates the birth of a former Michigan Wolverine co-captain named Rod Payne. After a stellar high school football career in Florida, Reginald Rod Payne came to play football for Gary Moeller in 1992. Payne used the 1992 season to red shirt while he acclimated himself to the weather in Ann Arbor and college life at Michigan. Of course, he worked hard on the field to learn the Michigan football system.
Rod Payne adjusted very well in 1992 and came back in 1993 to earn three starts at center for Coach Moeller. He helped the Wolverines post a winning season (8-4), but Michigan ended up in a fourth-place tie in the Big Ten with a record of 5 wins and 3 losses.
Payne was back in 1994 and now the center position was his, and his alone. He started all twelve games and helped solidify the offensive line. Once again, the Wolverines posted the same exact record for the second straight year. Michigan won 8 games and lost 4 and finished with a 5-3 record in the conference.
Lloyd Carr was the new Michigan Football Coach in 1995, but Rod Payne was still the starting center. The talented Payne started all thirteen games. He continued to lead Michigan’s offensive line and helped his team earn 9 wins while suffering 4 more defeats. Interestingly, Michigan finished the Big Ten season with a final record of, you guessed it, 5 wins and 3 losses. Rod Payne’s excellent play helped him earn first team All-Big Ten honors in 1995.
Rod Payne earned a greater honor at the start of the 1996 season when he was named co-captain along with teammate Jarrett Irons. The extra responsibility provided more motivation for Payne’s greatest season at Michigan. He started all twelve games at center, which made it 37 straight starts over his last three years. Once again, Payne led by example and helped his team post a record of 8 wins and 4 losses. For the fourth consecutive season, Michigan ended the Big Ten season with a record of 5 wins and 3 losses. Unfortunately, Rod Payne had way too much experience in losing some Big Ten heartbreaking games during his time at Michigan.
For the record, Rod Payne finished his Michigan career as one of the most decorated and most respected players to ever play the center position at Michigan. He earned first team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight season in 1996. He also won the Hugh Rader Award for being Michigan’s best lineman. Rod Payne was also named Michigan’s Most Valuable Player in 1996. He topped off his senior year with first team All-American honors. This made him the twelfth Michigan center to earn such high honors.
Rod Payne played on four winning teams at Michigan. Although, he was redshirting during Michigan’s championship year in 1992, he did not start on a Big Ten Champion team. Payne did play on winning bowl teams in at the end of the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
In addition to some impressive individual accomplishments, Rod Payne is connected to some interesting Michigan Football “firsts.” Check these out:
- Rod Payne played in the first games in Michigan Football History against Penn State and North Carolina State in 1993.
- Payne played in the first game ever against Colorado State in 1994.
- Rod Payne played on Lloyd Carr’s first Michigan Football team in 1995.
- Payne also played in the first ever 5-0 Michigan win against Purdue in 1995.
- Rod Payne, and a number of his classmates, became one the first, and few, Michigan players who played on teams to finish with the exact same Big Ten record (5 wins and 3 losses) for four consecutive years (1993 to 1996).
Thank you, Rod Payne, for your leadership and your contributions to Michigan football. Your hard work and achievements on the field helped to make Michigan football the winningest program in college football. Happy Birthday Rod Payne and Go Blue!