Born in Rossford, Ohio, Payak graduated from Woodward High School in Toledo in 1944 and then attended Bowling Green State University, graduating in 1949 after an interruption for service in the United States Navy. Payak was a 6'4" shooting guard. Payak played for the Philadelphia Warriors and Waterloo Hawks during the 1949-50 season, and for the Milwaukee Hawks in 1952-53. He also played with the Toledo Mercurys, a traveling team that competed against the Harlem Globetrotters at various exhibitions.
After retiring as a player, Payak became a basketball referee, officiating for over 17 years in the Big Ten, the Mid-America Conference and in NCAA tournament action. He also served as Supervisor of Basketball Referees for the Mid-American Conference. Payak was elected to the Bowling Green State University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Toledo City Athletic Hall of Fame, and the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. He died February 27, 2009 in Toledo, Ohio.
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