Won and done: Auburn QB Cam Newton to enter draft

Cam Newton is going to to the NFL, and maybe leaving the
controversy behind.

Auburn said Thursday night that the Heisman Trophy-winning
quarterback is skipping his senior season to enter the draft after
one season as a major college starter, which included the Tigers’
first national championship in 53 years and a pay-for-play
scandal.

Newton and Auburn capped a 14-0 season with a 22-19 victory over
Oregon in the BCS title game Monday night. He said the decision was
”difficult for me and my family.”

”It’s been a blessing for me to be a part of something so
great,” Newton said. ”Any time you win games it’s a big deal, but
for this school to win a BCS national championship, what a way to
make people happy. Auburn is a special place that I can call
home.”

Now, the national champions are waiting on Lombardi
Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley to announce his NFL
decision Friday morning in his hometown of Mobile. Fairley might be
the No. 1 overall pick, but the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton is the
guy that coach Gene Chizik called ”probably the best football
player I’ve ever seen” after the SEC championship game.

Both are junior college transfers, though Fairley has spent two
seasons with the Tigers.

Newton is a former backup to Tim Tebow at Florida who arrived
after leading Blinn College in Texas to a JUCO national
championship. He won on a much bigger stage with the Tigers.

”We appreciate Cameron’s many contributions to Auburn and the
outstanding leader that he was for our football team,” Chizik
said. ”He had one of the greatest individual seasons ever by an
Auburn player and was a key part of our championship run. Cam will
always be a member of the Auburn family and we wish him the best in
his future endeavors.”

The College Park, Ga., native was chosen the Walter Camp and The
Associated Press Player of the Year. Newton also won the Maxwell
Award as the nation’s top player and the Davey O’Brien Award as the
best quarterback.

The dual-threat star brought joy to Auburn, but some troubles
also came with him. He played under a cloud the last two months of
the season after reports surfaced that his father, Cecil, shopped
his services during Mississippi State’s recruitment of his son.

All that came of it so far is that Auburn declared Newton
ineligible the week of the SEC championship game against South
Carolina and the NCAA reinstated him a day later. The NCAA said it
hasn’t closed the case but that it had no evidence at the time that
Cam Newton knew about his father’s solicitation.

The case may prompt a new addition – call it ”Newton’s Law” –
in the NCAA rule book.

It was prominent and polarizing enough that NCAA president Mark
Emmert, speaking at the governing body’s annual convention
Thursday, called for new rules ensuring that parents can’t ”sell
the athletic services” of their children.

”If you look at the Newton case, a lot of people came away from
that, because it’s a complicated case, saying, ‘Gosh, it’s OK for a
father to solicit money for the services for his son or
daughter?”’ Emmert told reporters afterward. ”The answer to that
is no, it isn’t. But we don’t have a rule that makes that
clear.”

On the field, Newton rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns
while passing for 2,854 yards and 30 TDs. He set Auburn season
records for both rushing and passing TDs and total offense and an
SEC mark for yards on the ground by a quarterback.

Newton injured his back during the national title game but still
passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 64.

He was good enough to prompt South Carolina coach and 1966
Heisman winner Steve Spurrier to marvel: ”You can’t tackle him.
He’s almost a one-man show.”

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio contributed
to this report.