Championship-winning athletes joining Sports Hall of Fame during NEMCC’s 75th anniversary.
Northeast Mississippi Community College will continue its celebration of 75 years of service to the region and country by inducting three former athletes into its Sports Hall of Fame.
Johnny Payton, Fred Stafford and Brynden Trawick are set for enshrinement on Thursday, October 5 at 4:30 p.m. in the Claude Wright Room of the Haney Union. They will also be publicly recognized at Tiger Stadium prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff of Northeast’s annual homecoming football game with division opponent Holmes Community College. The trio all won championships during their illustrious careers. Payton and Stafford played for the men’s basketball program while Trawick represented Northeast in the National Football League (NFL). Tickets for this event are sold out. A broadcast of the entire ceremony, which includes the presentation of Northeast’s Alumni Hall of Fame as well, will air live on the NEMCCTV Gold Channel.
Johnny Payton (Men’s Basketball, 1985-87)
Johnny Payton made the transition from W.P. Daniel High School in New Albany to then-Northeast Mississippi Junior College alongside his hall of fame coach, Harvey Childers, in the fall of 1985. The duo were the key pieces to a flawless 36-0 season by the Bulldogs the winter before that ended with a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 3A state championship. Payton was rewarded for his efforts with a spot in the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) North-South All-Star Game. He was voted as the Most Outstanding Offensive Player after producing a game-high 24 points.
Childers and Payton found themselves as state champions once again during their inaugural year with the Tigers. They ended up making three additions to Northeast’s trophy case over the course of their last two seasons together. Payton’s career at Northeast intersected with a significant change in the sport. The three-point line was legalized by all governing bodies of collegiate basketball ahead of his sophomore campaign. Ironically, Payton had a higher scoring average without the long distance shot at his disposal. He tallied 18.1 points per contest as a freshman compared to 14.7 points following its institution one year later. The Tigers defeated Mississippi Delta Community College to capture the north division crown on their path to the state title. Payton was one of five double-digit scorers for Northeast with 13 points in the decisive win over the Trojans. Payton posted a career-high 38 points on the strength of 11 made field goals and a sensational 16 of 22 showing at the charity stripe earlier that season versus then-Shelby State (Tenn.) Community College.
He showed out during his debut in the black-and-gold with 26 points against Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College. Payton matched that in the Tigers’ next matchup with the now-defunct Mary Holmes College. Payton reached double figures in 19 of his first 20 appearances at Northeast and 46 times overall. He totaled 885 points over 55 games for the Tigers, which comes to 16.1 points per contest.
Northeast broke a three-decade drought between national tournament berths during the 1986-87 campaign. Payton had 14 points to help the Tigers get past then-Jones County Junior College for the region championship. Payton had a pair of double-digit performances for Northeast at nationals in Hutch with 12 points against Southern Union State (Ala.) Community College and 17 points versus the College of Southern Idaho. He had a season-best 25 points against archrival Itawamba Community College. Payton shot roughly 52 percent from the floor and was described by Childers as one of the Tigers’ top defenders as well.
Payton also distributed the ball to his talented teammates effectively that year. He averaged 6.4 assists per game, which is tied for the second most in a single season in program history. He signed a basketball scholarship with the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Payton started for Childers at guard for six straight years between Northeast and W.P. Daniel.
Johnny Payton is currently the Director of the Streets Department for the City of New Albany, his hometown.
Fred Stafford (Men’s Basketball, 1987-89)
Just like his brother and fellow hall of famer Maurice, success has followed Fred Stafford wherever the sport of basketball has taken him throughout life. That trend started in earnest as a student-athlete at Northeast Mississippi Community College where he was part of the special 1989 region champion and national runner-up team under coach Harvey Childers. Stafford reached double figures during 27 of the Tigers’ 35 games that season. He added eight 20-plus point efforts, including in back-to-back triumphs by Northeast over Coahoma Community College and Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College. He saved his best performances for matchups with Copiah-Lincoln Community College, which eliminated the Tigers from two postseason events and ended a three-year winning streak inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum during Stafford’s freshman campaign.
Stafford dropped 24 points as part of Northeast’s come-from-behind 104-96 win in the championship game of the Wolves’ invitational tournament in November. He then scored a career-high 30 points in their next meeting midway through the season. The Tigers concluded their revenge tour against Co-Lin with a back-and-forth 111-100 victory in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 finals. Stafford was the low scorer among Northeast’s starters, but still chipped in a solid 19 points. Northeast officially secured its fourth all-time trip to the national tournament with an 83-74 decision at Alabama conference winner Southern Union State Community College. Stafford had 17 points, including an 8 of 11 showing from the free throw line.
He averaged 9.3 points inside the historic Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan., including three consecutive double-digit outings leading up to the title contest against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. Stafford and the Tigers were the north division champs one year prior in 1988. He had a season-best 29 points on 11 made field goals in a victory over East Mississippi Community College. The Rienzi native totaled 822 points over 66 appearances in a black-and-gold uniform, which comes to 12.5 points per game. Northeast went a combined 59-7 during Stafford’s tenure, including a perfect 24-0 regular season record during the 1987-88 campaign.
While Stafford missed out on capturing a national championship with the Tigers, he did not let a second opportunity go to waste two years later while at the University of North Alabama. Stafford led a second half surge by the Lions, who finished off the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) by a score of 79-72 at the Springfield Civic Center to win the NCAA Division II title. He was the CBS Player of the Game with a team-best 24 points. He also obtained all-tournament honors after helping North Alabama average 91 points during its five NCAA Tournament contests. Stafford posted 11.4 points during that memorable senior year.
Stafford has spent the last three decades in the coaching profession. He was part of three state championships at his alma mater of Biggersville High School in the 1990s with two coming as the headman for track and the other as assistant boys basketball instructor. He collected division coach of the year awards in 2016 at Corinth High School and most recently last winter at H.W. Byers High School. Stafford was selected to coach in the 2023 Northeast Mississippi Basketball Coaches Association (NEMBCA) All-Star Games.
Brynden Trawick (Football, 2010)
Brynden Trawick made history as the first former Northeast Mississippi Community College football player to compete in the Pro Bowl game. Trawick landed his spot in the National Football League’s (NFL) annual all-star event at the end of the 2017 season by becoming an elite defender in kickoff and punt return coverage for the Tennessee Titans. He topped the Titans, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2008, with a career-high 15 tackles on special teams that year. Three of those stops came during Tennessee’s road win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild card round. Trawick recorded one takedown as his American Football Conference (AFC) team defeated the National Football Conference (NFC) by a 24-23 score on January 28, 2018 in Orlando, Fla., at Camping World Stadium.
He spent seven seasons in the NFL, which is the third most among all Northeast alumni behind only Mario Addison and Jerome Woods. Trawick made four playoff appearances, including in his final year as Baltimore captured the 2019 AFC North Division championship. Trawick’s most productive game came on New Year’s Day 2017. He tallied a career-best 10 tackles, one pass break up and an interception as his Oakland Raiders wrapped up the regular season at Denver.
The Marietta, Ga., native participated in 97 NFL games excluding the preseason with 47 of those coming in a Ravens uniform. His cumulative statistics include 87 takedowns, three quarterback hits, two pass break ups and two tackles for loss. Trawick opened his collegiate career at Michigan State University before transferring to Northeast for his sophomore campaign. He helped the Tigers finish tied for runner-up in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division. He started in all nine games for head coach Ricky Smither in the fall of 2010. Trawick earned second-team all-conference honors after accumulating 62 tackles, including three for loss, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. The 6-3, 230-pound safety returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown during Northeast’s week four victory at Holmes Community College. He was also credited with four pass break ups while with the Tigers.
Trawick continued his journey on the gridiron at Troy (Ala.) University. He was an All-Sun Belt Conference (SBC) recipient following both of his seasons with the Trojans after becoming a reliable presence on their defensive unit. He led the Sun Belt and was among the top 20 tacklers at the NCAA Division I level as a junior with a total of 123. Trawick was the only athlete in the league to average double-digit stops with 10.2 per contest. Trawick had the sixth most solo stops nationally as well with 75. He posted a career-high 20 takedowns plus grabbed a loose fumble in a matchup at Western Kentucky University on November 26, 2011. He had nine double-digit tackling performances out of 24 games at Troy. Trawick was recognized as the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week after racking up a season-best 15 stops at the University of North Texas during his senior campaign. Trawick had a 70-yard pick-six as part of his last homecoming contest with the Trojans versus Arkansas State University. He represented Troy one final time at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game in February 2013.
His overall college statistics between Michigan State, Northeast and Troy includes 270 takedowns, 13 pass break ups, 11 tackles for loss, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one sack.
— Blake Long Sports Information Director Northeast Mississippi Community College