Fall 2021 SS Magazine

High school football player Jayden Payne saves 'two of God's children' during Houston flood

Jayden Payne, a student and football player at Aldine High School in Houston, saved a woman and her child from drowning on Thursday, as Tropical Depression Imelda battered the city.

Payne was with his mother, Cynthia Williams, when he saw a BMW SUV drive into a ditch and begin to sink.

“I hurried up, threw my jacket off, I threw my shirt off,” Payne told the Houston Chronicle. “I ran over there across in front of all the cars. I didn’t care if all the cars stopped or not because I was more worried about their safety than my safety.”

As Payne neared the car, he saw the driver, Vinitta Williams, surface, and then pull her 2-year-old daughter, Ava, out after her — leaving her with only one arm to swim against the fast-moving current.

“That’s when he dived in and he pulled us out,” Williams told KHOU 11, “and I’m thinking, thank you God. He is my guardian angel. He’s my hero.”

“To risk your own life to save people that you don’t know — he didn’t know that lady and her child,” Aldine football coach Hank Semler told the Chronicle. “He just saw fellow people that needed help and he just immediately sprung to action.”

Payne said the action was more instinct than anything else, and that he’s grateful he was there to help.

“I feel like I did something great,” Payne said. “I had to make sure two of God’s children didn’t die at an early age.”

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Williams said.

On Monday, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson invited Payne to be a special guest at their upcoming game against Carolina.

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