Published January 11, 2011
GLENDALE, Ariz. – First the Heisman. Now the BCS championship.
And soon a big check Cam Newton can cash without having to explain it to anyone.
One of the shortest but memorable college careers a quarterback can have likely ended Monday night as Newton and his Auburn teammates celebrated amid falling confetti. A season mired in controversy turned magical, thanks largely to a player who overcame every obstacle put in his path.
Newton's stay with the Tigers always figured to be a one-off deal. But, oh, what a deal it was.
They took a gamble on an immense talent who bounced from Florida to junior college before landing at Auburn. He paid them back by delivering the school's first national title in 53 years.
"Anything is possible," Newton said. "I guarantee five or six months ago that no one would bet their last dollar that Auburn would win the national championship. ... And now we're standing here."
It's doubtful many people would have bet he'd be there at the end. The NCAA found evidence his father tried to sell his son to the highest bidder out of junior college, but ruled Newton eligible because it said the quarterback was unaware of Dad's doings.
He kept playing, and Auburn kept winning. Fourteen games in all.
He didn't have his best night against Oregon, despite the Tigers' 22-19 win, not even close. For a time it looked as though a fumble might do him in, and he took so many hard hits that his back was still aching long after the game ended.
But now he's a champion. Now he's a legitimate first-round draft pick.
And the next time Cecil Newton asks for some money for his son, there surely will be an NFL team more than eager to provide it.
Newton has until Saturday to make himself available for the draft, though most Auburn fans assume he's gone. That's fine, considering the tradeoff was a national title for a university starved for glory.
If he has a plan, Newton isn't tipping his hand just yet.
"It is something I have to sit down with coach Chizik and my family and just get the vibe of so many different people. We will go from there."
Realists will tell you there's not a lot left for Newton to prove at Auburn. Cynics will say that if Dad was shopping his son to colleges for $180,000 he certainly will tell him to ask for more from the NFL.
And those pro teams surely will be interested in a quarterback who seems to be determined not to be defined by the pay-for-play scandal that could have derailed his college career. Newton showed increased accuracy and better decision-making as the season went on, but it may be his work ethic and leadership abilities that most intrigue NFL scouts.
He sucked it up Monday night when he was hurting because Auburn needed him the most. And he delivered, despite a fumble with 5 minutes left that gave Oregon a chance to tie the game.
"When everybody thought he was down because of all the things that were going on, distractions and things like that, he came back and played harder just like we do," teammate Josh Bynes said.
The praise didn't just come from his teammates.
"In my career as a head coach he's the best player I've seen," Oregon's Chip Kelly said.
On a night of celebration, there was one downer for Newton. His father didn't attend the game. Nor was he there to watch his son win the Heisman Trophy.
Cecil Newton was in Arizona, though, and surely father and son would celebrate.
"I'm OK. It was worth it and I don't want nobody to feel sorry for me because throughout this year nobody felt sorry for Auburn," Newton said. "And, you know, we got the last laugh."
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org