Elkins Knights

Elkins’ Braylon Payne prepares to swing during a game. The Knights went 1-1 to open District 18-6A play last week.

Several local sports standouts have given early verbal commitments to continue their athletic careers at major Division I colleges.

Last week, Elkins High School outfielder Braylon Payne confirmed in a message to The Star that he recently gave a verbal commitment to play baseball at the University of Houston.

Payne is coming off a standout sophomore season in which he led the Knights’ regulars in batting average (.449), slugging percentage (.719), OPS (1.228), stolen bases (36) and runs scored (32) while placing second in on-base percentage (.519) according to MaxPreps. He also tied for the team lead in home runs (4) and led Elkins with 16 extra-base hits en route to a bi-district playoff berth.

“I’ve been following the Cougars for several years,” Payne said. “I’ve seen their progress and I feel the coaching staff will help me grow and develop into a better player.”

Then on June 28, Ridge Point High School standout junior defensive lineman DK Kalu announced on his personal Twitter account that he has given a verbal commitment to play football at Baylor University.

Kalu, who is the son of former Houston Texans defensive lineman ND Kalu, chose Baylor out of 15 total offers according to 247 Sports, which included Houston, TCU, Kansas State and Iowa State, among others.

Former Willowridge football star inducted into National High School HOF

On July 1, former Willowridge High School standout running back and NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas was one of 12 athletes inducted into the National Federation of State High School Association’s (NFHS) High School Hall of Fame.

According to a March news release from the federation, Thomas rushed for 3,918 yards and 48 touchdowns in three seasons at Willowridge. He helped the Eagles to a 39-3 record in that span, the release said, including back-to-back appearances in the UIL Class 4A state championship game in 1981 and 1982.

He would then go on to rush for 4,847 yards in college at Oklahoma State and 12,074 yards in an NFL career that saw him elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.

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