BLOOMINGTON – Bryan Payton paused as he began to reflect on his time as an Indiana football player.
His first thought was of the last time the Bucket Game was at Memorial Stadium in 2007, when the Hoosiers beat Purdue to clinch their first bowl berth since 1993.
The Concordia products mind then went to another game that season, when he scored three touchdowns in a win against Minnesota.
Thats probably the story of my career, having to be ready, Payton said Tuesday at Memorial Stadium. When I watched the film, I was like Is that me? It was strange and surreal, but it was something I knew I could do. But I hadnt done it up until that point.
That was a big confidence booster for me and for the rest of my career as well.
Payton is one of 21 seniors who will play their last game for IU on Saturday against the Boilermakers.
I know from being around this game for a long time that the last game is the one you always remember, IU coach Bill Lynch said.
Payton has spent most of this season as a backup running back. He has 148 rushing yards and one touchdown. Last season, he rushed for 381 yards and four touchdowns in 2007 and 339 yards and two scores.
Payton hasnt let his limited playing time in the backfield this year get to him. Payton has been a key contributor on special teams and has been named a team captain for three games.
It means a lot, Payton said of his time at IU. It means more than I can put into words. This has been the best time of my life.
Outside of getting married one day and having kids, this is probably the best thing thats going to happen to me, being part of IU football. Im going to miss it.
Payton spent the summer interning as a sports writer at The Journal Gazette. He would like to continue writing, having applied for a position at a mens health magazine. Hed also like to venture into television, radio, fashion and songwriting.
Theres a lot to do, but I have a lifetime to do it, Payton said. Theres no limit to what I can do. Im going to work very hard to achieve every goal I have.
Payton admits it will be tough to take off the jersey for good.
Ive seen guys in the past, the last game of every season, and its always tough for the guys I know. Ive always known in the back of my head that that day would come for me, too, he said. Its shocking that its come so soon.
I imagine myself sitting at my locker for a little bit of time with the jersey on. At the same time, I know God has a plan. You cant take IU football away from me. Ill always be a part of IU football.
Note: Athletic director Fred Glass said average football attendance will finish above 40,000 for the first time since 1992. The Hoosiers have averaged 40,478 fans through five home games. More than 40,000 tickets have been sold for Saturdays game.