Fourth of July Commits: Payne, Murphy, Harris, McElwain, Garrison join 2018 class

A.J. Payne committed to Army and assistant coach Mitch Ware three weeks ago.

But, Payne, a rising senior from Americus-Sumter (Ga.), told Ware that he wanted to wait Tuesday to officially announce his decision through social media.

“There’s nothing like the Army, Fourth of July and Independence Day,” said Payne Tuesday afternoon. “It was the right time to do it.”

“I always wanted to go into the Army but being able to play football and then to get the best education and with an Ivy League-type degree. I’ll be set up if football doesn’t work out.”

Several Army recruits also posted their commitments Tuesday, the nation’s celebrated birthday. Vianney (Mo.) quarterback-running back Tionne Harris, Harding University quarterback-defensive back Braheam Murphy, Hewitt Trussville (Ala.) running back Elliott McElwain and The Woodlands (Texas) long snapper Cale Garrison all announced their decisions to join the 2018 class. Garrison committed to West Point on June 5 after receiving an offer following Army’s prospect camp on June 4.

Payne played quarterback for Americus-Sumter his junior year but expects to shift back to wide receiver for his senior year. Navy, Georgia Southern, Tulane and Arkansas expressed interest in Payne.  But, Army is Payne’s lone offer to date. Army likes the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Payne’s versatility.

“When coach Ware came on a home visit, he told me I could play quarterback, running back or wide receiver,” Payne said.

After Payne announced his commitment, he received a text message from an Air Force assistant coach, he said. The assistant coach had paid Payne a visit at Americus-Sumter.

“I’m a straight solid (Army commit),” Payne said.

Murphy’s commitment is a feel-good story. Murphy was academically ineligible his sophomore season as he struggled with stability in his home life. Harding University coach Sam Greiner took Murphy into his home to live with him and Murphy’s grades rose to 3.7 grade-point average, according to Langston Wertz’s Jr.’s story in the Charlotte Observer.

Greiner reached out of other coaches after Murphy’s junior season. Chad Grier, a close friend of Greiner, knew Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman. Bateman offered Murphy a chance to play for Army in May.

“It was a blessing,” Murphy said of the offer. “It’s something that I had been waiting for.”

Murphy was headed to cookout with Greiner and his family Tuesday for Fourth of July. There was a little extra celebration at the cooking following Murphy’s decision. Murphy spoke with Army head coach Jeff Monken over the phone Monday night and followed through with his commitment.

“It was a great talk and after that I decided that I was going to do it,” Murphy said… “I’ve been just thinking about it a lot with my family lately…I talked to coach Bateman about it and he asked me would I commit before my visit. I just thought it was a great day to do it and celebrate with my family on the Fourth of July.”

Murphy volunteered to be Harding’s quarterback, a position that he had never played, his junior season. He exclusively played quarterback because Harding didn’t have a backup. This season, Murphy plans to play on both sides of the ball. His future is likely as a defensive back for the Black Knights, he said.

Harris is another versatile athlete that could play quarterback or slotback. He led Vianney to its first state title, passing for 2,549 yards and 19 touchdowns and running for 1,502 yards and 13 more scores in 2016.

2018 commits (18)
DT Ryan Bryce, 6-5, 285, St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, Pa.: Other offers – Rutgers, Virginia, Temple, Central Florida, Buffalo, UMass. (COMMITTED, May 30)
DE-TE Nolan Cockrill, 6-3, 230, Westfield HS, Chantilly, Va.: First offer – Army. (COMMITTED, June 4)
LB Morgan Ernst, 6-foot, 195, Webb HS, Knoxville, Tenn.: (COMMITTED, May 14)
CB Khalil Fleming, 5-11, 163, Northshore HS, Slidell, La.: Other offers – Air Force, May 22. (COMMITTED, April 19)
LS Cale Garrison, 5-10, 215, The Woodlands (Texas) HS: Offered after attending Army prospect camp on June 4. (COMMITTED, June 5)
WR-CB Will Hankins, 6-2, 175, Munford (Tenn.) HS
QB-RB Tionne Harris, 5-9, 178, Vianney HS, St. Louis, Mo.: Led Vianney to its first state title, passing for 2,549 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushing for 1,502 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016. (COMMITTED, July 4)
QB Walter Harris, 6-1, 190, Northshore HS, Slidell, La.: Other offers – Navy, May 8. (COMMITTED, April 22)
DL Tim Kater, 6-3, 265, Steelton-Highspire HS, Steelton, Pa.: Brother of former Army tight end Kelvin White. Other offers – Delaware, Delaware State, Howard, Morgan State. (COMMITTED, April 12)
OL Drew Kraatz, 6-6, 240, Standish-Sterling HS, Standish, Mich.: (COMMITTED, April 27)
LS Brendan Knoespel, 6-foot, 210, Antonian Prep HS, San Antonio, Texas: Other offer – Air Force. (COMMITTED, May 25)
OL Nick Kotok, 6-4, 285, Moon Area HS, Moon Township, Pa.
K Miller Kronk, 6-2, 195, London (Ohio) HS: First offer – Army. Army unofficial visit: May 24. (COMMITTED, June 1)
DE Ryan Matz, 6-3, 235, East Lincoln HS, Denver, N.C.: (COMMITTED, June 22)
FB Elliott McElwain, 6-foot, 215, Hewitt-Trussville HS, Trussville, Ala. (COMMITTED, July 4)
DB Braheam Murphy, 5-10, 160, Harding University HS, Charlotte, N.C.: First offer – Army. (COMMITTED, July 4)
QB-WR A.J. Payne, 6-1, 193, Americus-Sumter HS, Americus, Ga.
DL Hunter Richard, 6-3, 270, Edmond (Okla.) North HS: Other offers – Princeton, Abilene Christian. (COMMITTED, June 21)


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    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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