Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 36
The King of PayneCalifornia's top running back prepares for football in the Southeastern Conference
By KRISTINA SEWELL
Cameron Artis-Payne is one of those running backs who has an undeniable presence on the field. He’s explosively powerful and fast; just give him the ball and watch him blow through opposing defenses to the end-zone.
A Harrisburg, Penn., native, Artis-Payne has run all over the competition this season, breaking records and breathing life back into the football program at Hancock college.
With a work ethic and level head that’s turned the heads of football coaches nationwide, Artis-Payne is preparing to set fire to the Southeastern Conference.
On Nov. 8, the 22-year-old player announced his commitment to the Division I football program at Auburn University. Representing the Tigers in black and orange, Artis-Payne stood before his coaches, teammates, and a host of media outlets to announce his decision and share his excitement for this opportunity.
“This means a lot to me,” he said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to see my dreams come true.”
Despite receiving offers from Big 10 and Pac 12 universities, Artis-Payne said he chose Auburn for its history and football program, which is known for turning out great running backs.
The 6-foot, 212-pound running back came to Hancock as a freshman because he felt it was a program he could thrive in—and he couldn’t have been more right. The 2011 season saw Artis-Payne run for 1,364 yards with 18 touchdowns; he was also named All-California First Team Offensive Player for Region IV.
But this year’s record-breaking season shows Artis-Payne was barely tapping into his potential last year.
With an impressive 2,048 rushing yards on the 2012 season, the running back has clearly upped his level of play. The state leader in rushing yards per game (204) and touchdowns scored (23), Artis-Payne has broken four school records and been named Southern California Football Association’s Northern Conference Player of the Week five times.
“Cameron is a hard worker and deserves all of the success that he’s had this season,” said Hancock coach Kris Dutra.
Dutra, who’s spent two years with Artis-Payne, said Cameron has made a drastic transformation since last season.
“He has been on a mission since last season, and there was not an obstacle that was going to get in his way,” Dutra said. “It’s very difficult to stop him when he makes up his mind to do something.”
Dutra said that aside from his above-average work ethic and maturity, Artis-Payne is a rare breed of player.
“He is a complete football player—he is full speed all the time. You don’t have to question his attitude, and he plays for the right reasons,” Dutra said.
When it comes down to it, what sets Artis-Payne apart from thousands of other running backs is what Coach Dutra calls “the intangibles.”
“He is a very durable player physically and mentally,” Dutra said. “He has mental toughness, intelligence, and he’s developed into a strong team player.”
While Dutra said he could have had bigger or even faster guys, Artis-Payne is the best running back he’s had as a complete package—plus he has the grades. Dutra said that Artis-Payne’s intelligence has made him very good at reading defenses.
“You can’t de a dummy and play football anymore; you have to be pretty sharp to do what he does,” Dutra said.
Given all the accolades he’s already received, it would be easy for Artis-Payne to let all the attention go to his head. Despite this, Artis-Payne is a levelheaded player who always comes to practice to work.
Teammates and fellow linemen DeShawn Morton and DeOnte Willis said Artis-Payne likes to clown around, but when it comes to game day, the running back is a man of few words and is focused on getting the job done.
“He is one of those players who, if he has spare time, he wants to work out and encourages others to work out with him,” Morton said.
“He opened my eyes and encouraged me to work harder to make it to the next level as well,” Willis said, echoing his teammate’s praise.
The running back said it’s easy to stay grounded when good coaches and teammates surround you.
“Besides, I don’t really have a big head in the first place,” he said.
For Artis-Payne, who’s always wanted to play in the Southeastern Conference, this opportunity is a dream come true.
He started playing football when he was 6 years old and, like most kids, was introduced to the sport by his father. With the gift of speed and a fearless attitude that lets him meet contact head-on, Artis-Payne said running back was the first and last position he played.
The recently signed Tiger knew that to achieve his goals, he’d have to step up his game this season. With that in mind, the running back sought out the expertise of local trainer Ty Lee. Artis-Payne began working with Lee on a daily basis four months prior to the season and continues to work out with him every day.
“I knew I had to be bigger, faster, stronger, and take my body fat down,” Artis-Payne said.
When he’s on the field, the running back said his mind is usually a blank—his only focus to run the ball. But when things get difficult or he finds it hard to get going, he thinks about his grandma.
“We’d always talk about football or getting rich,” Artis-Payne said.
For the young player, it’s not always football that drives him, but rather an overwhelming determination to help his family achieve a better quality of life. Originally from a family of 10 kids and raised in the projects of Philadelphia, Artis-Payne ultimately wants to make it to the NFL and pay for his family to move out of an area plagued with crime. Coach Dutra said that the NFL is a strong possibility for someone of Artis-Payne’s caliber.
“Cam has absolute NFL ability,” Dutra said. “It all depends on how well he does at Auburn.”
Hancock finished off its season Nov. 10 with Artis-Payne reaching 2,048 rushing yards. He’ll be leaving for Auburn in January, and although he’ll miss his teammates and the coaching staff at Hancock, he’s looking forward to a brighter future; the running back would like to major in business management.
“Getting to play in the SEC, in front of 90,000, will be a great opportunity,” Artis-Payne said. “I’m really excited about starting my Division I career.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell rarely fumbles the football. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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