CHARLOTTE – With their final selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Panthers added depth to their running back group.
Carolina chose Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne in the fifth round with the 174th overall pick.
"Cameron is a real good tackle box runner," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "He's a great kid with good speed. He's kind of built like a bowling ball. He played at a high level in the SEC and was very productive."
The 5-foot-10, 211-pound Artis-Payne ran for 1,608 yards in 2014 – the third-highest total in Auburn history. He also scored 13 touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
"I'm a tough, hard-nosed runner," Artis-Payne said.
He needed that mentality to turn his football dreams into reality.
Artis-Payne only played one year of high school football, so, in the hopes of attracting more attention from major college programs, he went to prep school. But the attention never came. As a result, Artis-Payne was out of football for two years.
It's not something I wanted to do, not something I planned, but it helped me grow and mature as a man," he said. "I don't think without that point in my life I would be here today.
"I just tried to stay in shape and work out, because I knew I wanted to get back into football. The opportunity presented itself (at Allan Hancock junior college), and I ran with it."
Did he ever. Artis-Payne rushed for 2,048 yards in his second year at school in Santa Maria, Calif., where he became the top-rated junior college running back.
Auburn then provided the opportunity he had long been waiting for.
"I had a great experience at Auburn, and I wouldn't trade it for the world," Artis-Payne said.
His patience was tested again during the NFL Draft. Fourteen running backs were taken ahead of Artis-Payne.
"Definitely, because I was the 15th running back drafted I'm out to prove a lot of people wrong," Artis-Payne said. "With how I worked to get here, I really don't think there are too many people that have the drive and desire that I do to be great."
In Carolina, he'll try to work his way into the rotation behind feature-back Jonathan Stewart and backup Fozzy Whittaker, in addition to fullback and short-yardage specialist Mike Tolbert.
"I feel like this is a great situation," Artis-Payne said. "They have a great running back in Jonathan Stewart and some very talented guys on the roster behind him as well. But it's a great spot, because they run the ball and you have a guy like Cam (Newton) operating the offense."