Christian Payne motioned to the left and got down in a three-point stance on the strong side of the formation.
Following the snap, the 245-pound fullback zeroed in on his North Carolina blocking target and ran straight toward him. The moment the two connected, Payne pushed the defender back about eight yards before flattening him on the ground for a pancake.
The block helped Nick Chubb, on Georgia’s second play from scrimmage, run for a 13-yard gain.
Plays like this became typical from Payne in Georgia’s 33-24 win over North Carolina. On another occasion, he found a defensive back in the next level and threw him to the Georgia Dome turf. On running back Brian Herrien’s touchdown, Payne was in front of the freshman before cutting North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith above the knee and upending him out of the play.
"He reminds me of a high school bully," outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. "That’s how he plays. He plays pretty intense."
Payne’s performance earned him Georgia’s own player of the game, according to head coach Kirby Smart. While Chubb ran all over the Tar Heels and receiver Isaiah McKenzie had a career day, Payne was the one singled out for countless blocks and collisions that helped spring the offense to 474 total yards.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney called for plenty of plays that included Payne, who was more than ready for the physical challenge of taking on North Carolina defenders in a run-heavy attack.
"It gives you confidence as a player that you’re going to be included in the game plan," Payne said.
Funny enough, Smart created a minor stir back in May when he said he’s "not a fullback guy" at an alumni gathering in Macon. He clarified the following day in Columbus that he wasn’t going to use a scholarship on a fullback, but that the position would still be used in Georgia’s offense.
Whatever his clarification was, Smart admitted that his statement didn’t sit too well with Payne, who did his part to prove his worth in Georgia’s first game of the season.
"A while back when I said we didn't use fullbacks, he was mad at me, so he took it out on me during the game," Smart said. "He actually was the player of the game. We think a lot of him. He practices really hard and gets no credit. He plays physical, and he did a lot of good things on tape. He does that every day, so it's no surprise to me. He does have great value in this offense with what he does. He's done a good job for us. Really competitive, tough guy."
Payne said he didn’t take Smart’s spring fullback comment to heart.
"I don’t try to look into that much," Payne said. "I’m just here to do my best and work as hard as possible and just help the team to win. It’s nothing personal about those comments. It’s just to work and go out there and do my best."
Payne said one of the reasons he had a good first game was that he got to prepare against Georgia’s defense during the preseason.
Payne and Carter apparently have had a lot of run-ins with one another in practice, which caused Carter to dub him the "Payne Train."
"We’ve been hitting all fall camp," Payne said. "It’s usually a stalemate. We move a whole lot when he hit. It’s just a loud crack."
When Georgia fired Mark Richt and hired Smart, Payne said he was hopeful a pro-style offensive coordinator would come on board with him. Payne was happy with Chaney’s addition since the fullback position will still have a role in this offense.
And Georgia sure is thankful to have a player like Payne at a position that continues to slowly be phased out of a lot of offenses.
"Kids were joking that Payne was out there chopping trees," tight end Jeb Blazevich said. "He had a couple of cut blocks that were really an amazing job. I think he’s good at getting the right guy and saving the day on some of those plays where there’s a guy in the hole and he can swipe him out for a touchdown."