Hilton Head Island High School athletic director Mark Karen studied the faces of Seahawks football players, both current and future, as they listened to their new coach Monday night in the school's theater.
He saw expressions change when B.J. Payne began talking about expectations for the players and program. Which faces remain when the work begins will be interesting to see, Karen said.
Payne was officially introduced to players and parents Monday and stayed to mingle in the lobby after questions were answered inside.
"The response has been strong and positive," Karen said. "Everybody I have come in contact with. It's been a refreshing change."
Payne told Seahawks supporters it was the Hilton Head community that drew him, that he wants to be involved in all aspects of the school, even outside of football.
That matches what Karen was told from those he talked to in Payne's community at Lexington High School in Ohio, that Payne attended all the school's sporting events and was always around.
The coach said he will move here permanently at the end of the month but has been in town since Friday interviewing 14 potential assistant coaches with more interviews lined up later this week.
Payne said a coach jokingly asked whether Payne had moved a bed into his office yet, that he had been at the school from 7 a.m. until late at night each day since arriving in town.
"I think the biggest thing I've noticed is just letting the kids know you genuinely care about them, that you're willing to do anything for them and putting in the time," Payne said. "You can't hold kids accountable if you're not accountable, I think that's the biggest thing. They have to see you put in the work."
Karen introduced Payne as a coach well-connected at the college level. Payne said he showed Karen text messages he received from Division I coaches throughout the country after accepting the Hilton Head High job.
He told the Seahawks players he could open avenues that might not have previously been available to them.
"With that comes a lot of hard work," he said.
Payne comes to Hilton Head High after six seasons at Lexington, where the Minutemen finished with a 36-24 record during his tenure. He resigned in December.
Payne is a North Carolina native and his father, Brooks Payne, played at Clemson University under coach Frank Howard.