AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn quarterback Cam Newton may well go on to play in the NFL next season, but he said now is not the time to think about it.
Newton, one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, said he will come to a decision about whether he returns for his senior year after this season is over.
“There’s a time and place for everything,” Newton said Tuesday. “I’m not sitting up here and giving you a definite decision on how I’m feeling right now.
“How I’m feeling right now is (this week’s opponent), Tennessee-Chattanooga.”
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Newton leads the SEC with 1,122 rushing yards and, although questions persist about his passing ability, ranks third nationally with a passing efficiency of 172.61.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. lists Newton as the No. 3 non-senior NFL quarterback prospect in the country, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett.
This year’s senior quarterback class includes Washington’s Jake Locker, Delaware’s Pat Devlin and Florida State’s Christian Ponder, among others.
Newton was asked whether his game is good enough for the NFL right now.
“That’s not to me,” he said. “My opinion doesn’t really go far when it comes to talking about the next level, because I’m still a college athlete.”
His decision won’t come until after the season, he said.
“I’m trying to grasp something that hasn’t been done here in a long time,” Newton said. “And we have a chance right now to seize the moment, and we can’t have those type of selfish thoughts to run through our mind, because it can be contagious. And we don’t want that around here.”
Taking time out
Despite his hectic schedule, Newton has been able to dedicate some of his time mentoring kids at Wrights Mill Elementary School.
“A lot of times, especially in this day and time, a lot of children don’t have father figures or anybody they can sit down with and just express how they really feel about whatever is going on in their life,” he said. “We do know that kids the age of 6, 7, 8 or through 13, they do have feelings, too. They’re growing right in front of our eyes.
“For me to do that, it’s a no-brainer for me to take time out of my day to help a little kid, because that’s my passion.”
Auburn’s offensive line has gotten a healthy dose of praise for being integral to the Tigers’ offensive success.
It’s a rare exception. Usually it’s the ballcarriers who get all the attention.
“You have to learn that at a young age,” left tackle Lee Ziemba said. “Junior high, you start seeing all the girls in the class going with the guys that carry the football. And you’re sitting back and going, ‘The reason he got that date was because of me.’”
Sophomore John Sullen, who narrowly missed out on winning the starting right tackle job, has worked at all the offensive line positions except for center this season.
“It’s like coach wants me to be ready,” he said. “If anybody goes down, I’ll be the next one in the game.”