Cameron Artis-Payne looking to make the jump from Auburn to the NFL
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Cameron Artis-Payne didn't jump up and down and demand the spotlight last season. He quietly let his stats do the talking as the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher who turned in the third-best rushing season in Auburn history.
His approach to this week's NFL Draft has been the same.
"I'm not a flashy guy. I'll just be with family at home," he says. "I probably won't watch the draft from the beginning because it will be so nerve-racking."
It'll be a chance for Artis-Payne, who played at Auburn for two years, to continue his football career in the pros. He says he's heard talk that he could be drafted as early as the third round. CBSsports.com says fourth or fifth round. ESPN says he's the 15th-rated running back.
He says he has tried to say away from projections.
"I try not to read anything. I think I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping the outside information to a minimum," he said.
"You may got exactly where they have you projected, but sometimes you might go later, sometimes you might go earlier. I'll just see when that time comes."
Artis-Payne will be part of a large group of Auburn players who will be drafted or sign as free agents. ESPN lists 16 former Tigers who are good enough to be considered as future pros. The draft begins Thursday and continues through Saturday, this year from Chicago.
"It's getting down to crunch time," Artis-Payne said. "I want to go as high as I possibly can, but the main thing is to be on an NFL roster. The realization is just now hitting me. In the next few days, I have the opportunity to make my dreams come true."
Artis-Payne said he hasn't visited any team, but did go to the NFL Combine and Auburn's Pro Day and has done individual workouts. He could have told the teams this: He led the SEC in rushing last season with 1,608 yards, averaging an SEC-best 123.7 yards per game. This, too: He was voted the team offensive MVP. He also rushed for 610 yards as a junior while Tre Mason was rushing for 1,800 yards and toward a third-round pick in last year's draft.
But Artis-Payne has approached the draft looking ahead, not as his old stats:
"I'm trying to keep in the best shape possible and I'm trying to keep my mind as sharp as possible on football knowledge," he said. "I've been watching a lot of film so I can recognize defenses, defensive fronts, blitz pickups. Those are the things I'm studying."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine