Following the firing of Coach Gene Chizik at Auburn there were some anxious times while he waited to see what would happen on the Plains. With the news that Gus Malzahn had been hired at Auburn and following a conversation with the new coach, the junior college standout said he's fired up about getting to Auburn this month.
"I'm still a Tiger," Artis-Payne tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I didn't ever leave. I had to wait and see what was going to happen, but I was always a Tiger."
Finishing his sophomore season with a school record 2,048 yards rushing and a school-best 25 touchdowns on 261 carries, Artis-Payne has repeatedly said he's looking for an opportunity to play early on the next level. Even with a 1,000-yard rusher returning at Auburn in Tre Mason, there is no question that the Tigers need help at the position and that has him fired up about his role next season.
"That's definitely exciting for me to hear," Artis-Payne said. "Coming from junior college I'm looking for an opportunity to go somewhere and succeed right away. With that kind of offense, to deal with a guy of that caliber on offense is pretty exciting.
"At the end of the day you've got to go in and earn it," he added. "I plan on working hard when I get to campus and earning a spot. Coach Malzahn just told me how he emphasizes the running back in his system. He just told me a multitude of ways he could use me in the offense."
One of the things that Artis-Payne found out when talking to Malzahn for the first time was his focus on running the football. The term "spread offense" has been thrown around before when people describe Malzahn's system, but the powerful runner found out that Malzahn's focus is on running the football and that makes him a happy guy.
"Coming into the conversation with Coach Malzahn in knew some things about him," Artis-Payne said. "I learned a lot more about him after talking with him. I didn't know he was there with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas. That shed some light on the situation for me because I thought he ran a spread-type offense. He told me in the last five years he's had seven 1,000-yard rushers. That's not spread to me."
An early graduate, Artis-Payne is planning to move to Auburn later this month and begin classes in January. That will allow him to learn the offense and go through spring practice with the Tigers. He said right now he's just ready to get everything started and see how life as a Tiger is going to be.
"I'm just finishing up my classes now," Artis-Payne said. "I'm ready to get there. I'm a Tiger."