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Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne quietly leads the way in SEC
Nov. 5, 2014

Cameron Artis-Payne breaks free against Ole Miss

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Cameron Artis-Payne leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing. Aren't you listening? He leads the S-E-C in running the football.

How could you not see his 974 yards, a pace ahead of the one Tre Mason set last year when he set the school record for rushing in a season? Artis-Payne came in the year with something to prove. He's done that, sometimes quietly, usually without a word about the Heisman Trophy.

"After a certain point, you get used to it," he said. "I've never been the celebrated guy or the top dog or anything like that. So that's always driven me since a young age. It's nothing new for me."

Cameron Artis-Payne, who ran for 143 yards against Ole Miss' celebrated defense last week, will try to keep things going in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game against Texas A&M in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"It's fine to lead the SEC in rushing, but, at the end of the day it's about getting wins as a team. Individual success will come with that," he says. 

"We knew at the beginning of the year," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee "that we thought he'd be a 1,000-yard back in this league. We really did."

Artis-Payne is starting because he understands what it takes to be the tailback in a Gus Malzahn offense. There's running, sure, but there's also pass protection and blocking. Artis-Payne arrived in Auburn last year from junior college with an understanding of that.

"That’s something that my father taught me when I was young, that it’s not always about carrying the ball," he said. "It's about doing the little things right as far as blocking, being able to catch out of the backfield, all that type of stuff. So that's something I've always worked on and prided myself on."

 Malzahn said he doesn't know where Artis-Payne stands on the national respect meter. "I don't get to listen to all the talk shows and all that." But, in his eyes, "he's just a workhorse guy. He's one of the top running backs in our league, and I think he's proved that time and time again. He's tough. He's very reliable. He's a very good pass protector. He's unselfish. He just does his job."

Like the job he did against Ole Miss.

"He was banged up in the fourth quarter, and I asked him if he was OK.  'Do we need to put somebody in?' He said 'no way. I want to finish this thing,'" Malzahn remembered.

Last week was typical. He ran it eight times for 47 yards in the first half, then ran it 19 times for 96 yards in the second half.

"You just get a feel for the game," Artis-Payne said. "You see how the defenses are playing, especially going into halftime, you get to make adjustments to see what they're doing."

"He has a drive in him," Lashlee said, "a very quiet strength of drive that he's going to be successful. He's very driven to prove himself, and he doesn't have to say anything to anybody about it."

Lashlee said running back coach Tim Horton summed it up: "'He's a pro before he's a pro,' the way he prepares, the way he studies film, the way he comes to practice. He's the same young man every single day. If he's having a bad day, you're not going to know it as far as how he is in meetings and practice. I think that consistency is something you're starting to see on the football field."

Artis-Payne says he watches as much film "as I can possibly watch, just to see my opponent… what weaknesses I can exploit out there, how they play certain formations, things of that nature.

"You have to put in the extra work."

 He said he's always watched film, but "last year was something a little different not really playing as much, especially around this time of the year." Last year, Mason became the workhorse down the stretch, including a 46-carry, 304-yard performance in the SEC Championship Game.

Mason used that performance to win an invite as one of the eight players selected to attend the Heisman Trophy announcement in New York. Artis-Payne isn't sure where he stands on that score.

"It would be nice, but I'm not really focused on that right now. We've still got games left, so being the leading rusher now doesn't count for anything," he said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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