UW Football: Huskies beat rivals to land commitment for another standout player

The star has been away from home for over two years, covering a distance of over 2,700 miles. The list of things the sophomore edge rusher overlooked is rather straightforward.

His primary priority is his family, which includes his parents and three siblings, followed by friends. The Tacoma neighborhood, which helped Wayne become a national recruit, is next.

Wayne has one last addition to the list.

“The Chinese food is way better out here than in Miami,” he stated.

Wayne, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 260 pounds, spent his first 17 years of life in the South Sound, starring at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, where he was the state’s top football recruit in 2023.

Wayne transferred to Washington for the 2024 season after spending two years in Florida, including a season at Miami. He announced his return to the Pacific Northwest on April 30th.

“It feels good,” he explained. “I’m just with my family.” It’s nice. It’s a great sensation.”

Early attention

Masaki Matsumoto realized he was witnessing something extraordinary during Wayne’s freshman year. Having coached the Abes for nine years, the Lincoln coach had seen many talented players, but Wayne was exceptional.

It wasn’t just Wayne’s physical presence—standing 6-foot-3½ and weighing 200 pounds as a freshman—that caught Matsumoto’s attention.

Matsumoto noted that Wayne’s calm demeanor could be misinterpreted as a lack of interest or effort, but he described Wayne as one of the most mature high school athletes he had encountered.

Donald Wayne Jr., Jayden’s father, likened his son’s temperament to that of Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard.

“He’s a quiet kid, somewhat introverted,” Matsumoto said. Jayden usually responds with brief answers, rarely exceeding 15 words. “But he’s incredibly respectful. He was a great kid with no behavioral issues. Humble, despite his immense talent. He never acted superior to his teammates.”


Lake on 2021 Class
Jayden Wayne

In his freshman year at Lincoln, Wayne amassed 27 tackles, two sacks, a pass deflection, and five quarterback hurries in 10 games, despite starting only in the last five games of the season.

The following year, in a season shortened by the COVID pandemic, he recorded 35 tackles and two more sacks in six games. Wayne contracted the virus before the season, losing around 20 pounds, which he regained by working out in his family’s garage.

Wayne’s performance drew national recruiting attention, ranking him as the No. 14 prospect after his sophomore year according to the 247Sports composite ranking.

More than 40 schools, including top college football programs, offered him scholarships.

While recruiting calls were not new to the Wayne family—his older brother Daeshawn had earned a football scholarship to Georgetown—Jayden’s level of attention was unprecedented. Donald recalled receiving calls from coaches like Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart.

“When you get those calls,” Donald said, “you know it’s serious.”

Wayne had received a college football offer before playing a single game for Matsumoto at Lincoln. Mario Cristobal, then at Oregon, had extended a scholarship to an eighth-grade Wayne on July 27, 2019.

Cristobal, who moved to Miami before the 2022 season, maintained contact with Wayne, who continued to excel at Lincoln. In his junior year, Wayne recorded 44 tackles, including 16 for loss, along with 13 quarterback hurries and nine sacks.

“I was just trying to keep grinding and stay focused,” Wayne said.

A Floridian odyssey

Choosing where to start his college career wasn’t the only major decision Wayne faced in the summer of 2022.

Just three days before revealing his top six college choices, Wayne made another significant announcement on social media: he had decided to play his senior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. This football powerhouse has produced numerous first-round NFL draft picks, including JC Latham and J.J. McCarthy. IMG initially approached Wayne after his sophomore year, but his parents felt it was too early for him to leave home.

Following his junior year, the school reached out again. This time, Donald and Courtney Wayne let Jayden decide. Donald noted that his son’s consistent maturity made the decision to send him across the country easier.

Wayne saw several benefits to attending IMG Academy. He wanted to enroll early in a college to join spring football practices, and the higher level of competition, rigorous practice schedule, and top-notch facilities at IMG were appealing.

“I was on my own,” Wayne said. “So I had to just be more responsible, communicate more.”
In Florida, Wayne, who had been Washington’s top recruit since starting at Lincoln, was now one of many elite prospects. He ended his high school career ranked No. 13 at his position nationally and No. 21 in Florida.

Wayne quickly made his college decision. On July 9, 2022, he committed to Cristobal’s Miami.

“They liked my character,” he said. “They were consistent, and it felt like family down there.”

Wayne played eight games in his first season at Miami, making 13 tackles and registering half a sack despite battling COVID again. The Hurricanes, however, struggled in Cristobal’s second season, finishing 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the ACC. Wayne made his first start in the Pinstripe Bowl, recording three tackles, but Miami lost to Rutgers 31-24.

Despite the disappointing season, Wayne hadn’t planned on leaving Miami. But Cristobal, needing to prioritize transfer portal veterans, informed Wayne he wouldn’t see much playing time if he stayed. So, on April 23, just 10 days after playing in Miami’s spring game, Wayne entered the transfer portal.

“It was just like high school all over again,” Donald said. “A bunch of phone calls, texts. He got that anxiety about it again. He still doesn’t like — never liked the recruiting process.”

Wayne received offers from USC, UCLA, Missouri, California, Kansas, Nebraska, and Mississippi State, among others. However, Washington made the first visit, impressing Wayne with the vision pitched by coach Jedd Fisch, defensive coordinator Steve Belichick, and defensive line coach Jason Kaufusi. Wayne committed to the Huskies four days after his visit began.

“I just felt like Coach Fisch was real with me,” Jayden said.

Donald expressed joy at his son playing closer to home. The family had only been able to watch a few games over the past two years and looked forward to seeing more this season.

Jayden’s younger brother, Keiyon, an incoming freshman at Washington, plans to room with Jayden, just like they did growing up in Tacoma.

“It’s going to be pretty dope,” Jayden said. “Like high school days. Me and [Keiyon] going to the same school is going to be pretty cool.”

Daeshawn, who graduated from Georgetown in May, is back in the Puget Sound area, and their younger sister, Neiyonne’, recently participated in UW’s Running Start program. All four siblings are back home for the first time in over four years.

“It’s amazing,” Donald said. “Every parent wants their child closer to them. I wanted him to follow his dreams wherever that was, but if he can be close to home and do it, I love it.”

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