NEW YORK -- A crush of media surrounded Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for the duration of his 15-minute interview Friday, leaving the other three candidates in town for the Heisman Trophy presentation to deal with but a few reporters.
Oregon running back LaMichael James, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore probably know they’re playing for second.
“I don’t know if there’s much debate,” Moore said. “But it’s a great experience and lots of fun.”
Tonight won’t be about who wins the 76th annual Heisman Trophy. It will be by how much.
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Newton, the junior quarterback who has led the Tigers to a 13-0 record, a No. 1 ranking for the first time since 1985 and a spot in the BCS national title game, will be crowned as college football’s best player in the Best Buy Theatre near Times Square.
He’ll join Pat Sullivan (1971) and Bo Jackson (1985) as the only Auburn players to win the award.
“In my 30 years, I played against Herschel (Walker), played with Bo, played against (Doug) Flutie, coached against Rodney Peete, played against (Mike) Rozier and those guys at Nebraska -- I don’t know if there’s one like him,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. “He’s unbelievable.”
StiffArmTrophy.com, a website that tracks Heisman voters’ ballots across the country and has correctly predicted every winner since 2002, projects Newton to get 84 percent of the first-place votes, one of the highest totals ever.
That would put him fourth all-time behind USC’s Reggie Bush (91.8 percent, 2005), Ohio State’s Troy Smith (91.6 percent, 2006) and Texas’ Ricky Williams (85.2 percent, 1998).
That figure is slightly lower than it could be, though, mostly because of the recruiting scandal that has dogged Newton in the last month.
Some voters abstained. Others -- 13 by StiffArmTrophy.com’s tally as of Friday night -- left Newton off of their ballots altogether, despite the NCAA reinstating his eligibility without conditions after he was briefly ruled ineligible in what was more of a procedural matter prior to the SEC championship game.
Most cited a conflict with the Heisman Trust’s mission statement that the award go to the player “whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
Newton’s Heisman competition didn’t dwell on that Friday, instead praising the quarterback’s play throughout a trying season.
“Certainly Cam’s very deserving,” Moore said. “He’s playing on an undefeated team, playing in the national championship, he’s taking care of business, week-in and week-out, he’s making play after play.
“I think he does a great job just for the circumstances. Certainly there’s stuff that surrounds him that can take over your life, but he enjoys himself and has fun and it’s great.”