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He carried 16 times for 114 yards and four touchdowns against Richmond. Payne credits his line for his success; his coaches say it’s more than that.

“An arm tackle’s not bringing him down. It doesn’t matter who tries,” Faragalli said. “They’re going to have to get two and three people on him to get him down, and that’s a great thing, especially when you’re as determined and play with the passion that Keith does.”

Payne did the same in Virginia’s loss at USC, running 12 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. Next up is for Payne and Virginia is VMI on Saturday.

His five TDs rank second in the Atlantic Coast Conference to the six scored by Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt.

Payne said the season away from football made him appreciate the game more. His high school coach, Joe Thompson, drove home how much Payne would miss football when his former star told him he’d decided to quit.

“He wanted his future to be in football, so I asked him how his future was going to be in football if he wasn’t playing football,” Thompson said. He said Payne played defense for the only times in his career in the state tournament, and was integral in shutting down Evan Royster, now at Penn State, and Percy Harvin, now with the Minnesota Vikings, in victories.

“I think (quitting) was just the result of four years of frustration,” Thompson said.

Payne’s parents let him make the decision, but weren’t exactly thrilled.

“That’s what he dreamed of, playing football in the NFL,” Payne’s mother, Kim, said. “That’s been his dream, and when it happened, it was hard for me at first, but that was his decision. And I told him, ‘You can still have that dream, if you get another chance.’”

She was there, with her husband, Keith Sr., when that chance came against Richmond.

“It was nice to see that again,” Keith Sr. said. “It reminded me of his old self.”

It is his parents, Payne said, that made him want to give football another chance.

“I’m trying to pay them back for putting them through all the stress that they’ve been through,” he said. “And coach London. He trusted me from the beginning, even when I was going through all the problems I was having, but he never looked down on me. I’m kind of playing for all the people that actually believed in me, instead of for the ones that didn’t.”

In the process, he’s become the Payne Train again.