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Payne Durham
NFL Draft

Payne Durham NFL Draft 2023 Prospect Interview

  • Justin Melo
  • March 10, 2023
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Purdue tight end Payne Durham was a standout performer at this year’s Senior Bowl. Durham entered the week with a reputation as an in-line blocker. Durham exited Mobile as a proven dual-threat weapon that can both catch and block. Durham has been a worthy addition to an excellent 2023 NFL Draft class of tight ends.

Durham recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experiences in Mobile, proving doubters wrong, his favorite routes, and more. Durham is a potential top-100 selection.

JM: You really stood out to me in Mobile. We thought you had an excellent week as both a blocker and pass-catcher. Was there a focus on proving you’re more than a blocker?

Payne Durham: Yeah, there definitely was. But going out there, I wanted to show that I could block at the level that’s expected of me. I tried to be the best blocking tight end I could be in Mobile. I wanted to prove that I’m versatile. I used my strengths. Purdue used me in a bunch of different ways. I wanted to prove I’m capable of wearing multiple hats.

JM: You sure did that. You were great in Mobile. You recently attended the NFL Scouting Combine. What was your overall experience like?

Payne Durham: It was awesome. I loved getting out there and competing with the guys. It’s funny, you spend time watching those guys on television throughout the season. With the tight ends specifically, you know you’re in competition with them and you may compare your numbers with their numbers. But then you get out to Indianapolis and they become your good friends because they’re all such great guys (laughs). It was fun out there. I loved all of the interviews. It was such a fun experience.

JM: Speaking of, did you meet with many teams formally in Indianapolis? Do you have more interviews coming up?

Payne Durham: I met formally with the Denver Broncos and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Indianapolis. I probably met with every other team informally. I have interviews with the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Chicago Bears coming up. I have a workout with the Dallas Cowboys as well.

JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. You are an excellent blocker. There’s no denying it. You’re more developed in that area than 99% of collegiate tight ends I’d say. How did you develop a blocker’s mindset, and what do you appreciate about being utilized as a blocker?

Payne Durham: When I first arrived at Purdue, I had Brycen Hopkins in front of me. He’s a heck of a tight end. He was a pass-catching tight end. That was his role at Purdue. If I wanted to get on the field quickly, I knew I had to block. I needed to fill a role that the team needed. I was more than happy to do that. I wanted to help the team win. I found a niche as a blocker during my redshirt freshman year. 

I was also a safety valve in the passing game. I had a few touchdowns in the red zone. I also moved the chains on third-and-short for us. Mainly, I played a blocking role. I came to love and appreciate it. When Hopkins left, my role obviously expanded. I always kind of held true to getting on the field early as a blocker. I never shied away from that.

JM: That makes a lot of sense. As a pass catcher, do you have a favorite route to run?

Payne Durham: I really don’t. Here at Purdue, we did a little bit of everything. Gosh, I’ve probably run every route there is to run. Whichever one works and gets me open works for me (laughs).

JM: You actually played a ton of lacrosse in high school. At one point, you were more focused on lacrosse than football. Do any of the skills translate to the gridiron in your opinion?

Payne Durham: They definitely do. I didn’t play football until my senior year of high school. Of course, I played some football growing up. But once I got to high school, it was all about lacrosse. Lacrosse recruiting started really early for me. I wanted to play year-round so I played in every tournament I could. I was very focused on lacrosse. I started getting some college interest and received some offers. I thought that’s what I wanted to do.

I started playing football during that senior year and I fell in love with the game. I fell in love with the entire process. I went the football route. As far as skills that translate over, I think there are a bunch. I had to create separation in lacrosse to create shooting opportunities for myself. It’s similar for me as a tight end that needs to create separation to get open and catch the ball. There’s a lot of change of direction stuff that translates over as well. 

JM: That’s an excellent point. If you could sit down with any tight end and pick his brain, who would you choose and why?

Payne Durham: I’d go with Tyler Higbee from the Los Angeles Rams. I would choose him because I love his game. I think he’s one of the best tight ends in the NFL. All of my coaches actually coached him at Western Kentucky. We come from the same coaching family. I think we share a lot of similarities from a play-style perspective.

Jack Doyle also comes to mind. He’s retired now but again, we come from the same coaching family. I try to mold my game after Jack Doyle. I see a lot of similarities between us. 

JM: I’ve appreciated your time today. What kind of impact is Payne Durham going to make at the next level?

Payne Durham: I’m going to come to the team as that gritty tight end. I know my game. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m going to come in and work my tail off. I’m going to be that old-school “Y” tight end. I’m not afraid to get dirty. I’m not with all of that new fancy and cute stuff (laughs). That’s what you’re getting when you draft me. I’m excited to do that.

I want to line up and run through someone’s mouth.

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Justin Melo