Aug. 5, 2010
12:48 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Will he play this season, or is his football career at UVa over?

We’ll find out soon. Before making a final decision on Keith Payne’s status, Mike London said Wednesday, he wants to see the super-sized tailback’s final summer-school grades.

Exams end Friday — the same day the Cavaliers open training camp — so London shouldn’t have to wait long.

Payne, a 6-3, 255-pound fifth-year senior from Northern Virginia, arrived at UVa in 2006 as a heralded recruit. But he’s never reached the heights many predicted for him in college.

After rushing for 219 yards in 2007 and 36 yards in ’08, Payne quit the team on the eve of the 2009 season, unhappy with his role in the offense.

In December, London was hired as the Wahoos’ coach, replacing Al Groh, and over the winter Payne rejoined the team. Before allowing him back, however, London set requirements that Payne would have to meet in order to be cleared to play this season.

More than once this year, London has said that Payne is “in his doghouse.” He did so, London said Wednesday, with tongue partially in cheek.

“Keith is a tremendous talent,” London said, but he’s also a player who walked away from the team.

And now “he’s trying to ingratiate himself again with his teammates,” London said. “It’s my personal belief that, after you walk away, when you come back you’re not going to get the same type of red-carpet treatment. These guys stayed, and they worked.

“But he’s back, he’s been working, and we’ll see as far as his weight and as far as his grades. And if he does [what he’s supposed to do], I’ll be back to all hugs and kisses. I’ll know in a couple days where he is.”

At the ACC Football Kickoff late last month in Greensboro, N.C., London said he believed Payne was “on the road back. I think he’s there, but when the last summer-school grade is turned in, and I see what he’s done, then we’ll see whether or not I’m jumping up and down for him.”

Jeff White

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