NEW YORK -- Former Auburn running back Bo Jackson returned to the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York for the first time since he won the award in 1985.
With Tigers quarterback Cam Newton the runaway winner, he felt obligated to be true to his school.
“I felt like it was my duty to come back,” he said. “And my wife made me.”
Jackson, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Heisman, and the other previous Auburn winner of college football’s highest individual honor were at Saturday’s ceremony: 1971 winner Pat Sullivan.
Both had glowing things to say about the latest Tiger to join the club.
“I’ve only known Cam since the start of the season, met the young man one day at practice and noticed how he has leadership qualities,” Jackson said.
“He’s a courageous young man. He’s the type of guy I would want on my team. I think he is a type of guy that anybody would have on their team.”
Sullivan, who didn’t meet Newton until Saturday night, was struck by how the quarterback handled himself throughout the recruiting scandal the past month. But he was equally impressed by his sheer will to win.
“As the game went on, just like Michael Jordan in basketball, any of the really good ones, they wanted the ball,” Sullivan said. “And, obviously, Cam wanted it and he produced. …
“I think the thing that is very evident about Cam is, when he steps on the field, he raises the level of the other players on the team. You can see that they’ve bought into the leadership.”
A big production
Sullivan, who tries to make it back to New York for every Heisman presentation, said finding out that he won in 1971 was much different than today’s spectacle.
“It was actually made at the halftime of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game on Thanksgiving night and I saw it on TV just like everyone else,” he said.
Sullivan was in Auburn at the time, surrounded by teammates and coaches when he found out. But he likes the current format.
“I think the way it’s done now in New York, the emotion that all the guys when it’s announced, it’s really a thing that is special,” he said. “Quite a few guys come back every year, and you’re kind of welcoming a new guy in. And that’s special.
“I think back then, and I’m sure with the winner tonight as well as the past winners, when you’re announced, I don’t know that it fully sets in. I think that, as time goes by, you really realize the magnitude of how special the award is.”
‘It’s very inaccurate’
Newton has maintained through the NCAA investigation into his recruitment that he knew nothing about his father’s discussions with Mississippi State about a pay-for-play scheme last year.
But in an article Nov. 11, ESPN.com’s Joe Schad identified a source who said a source “who recruits” for Mississippi State was told by Newton that “the money was too much” after he signed with Auburn last December.
Newton was asked about the quote Saturday.
“I’m not about to entertain anything regarding … that right now,” he said. “Tonight takes along something that’s very special to me, and the last thing I’d like to talk about is something like that.”
When pressed about the quote, Newton said, “It’s very inaccurate.”
Newton might have won college football’s biggest individual honor Saturday night, but he was left off the Football Writers Association of America’s All-America Team.
Two Tigers made the list: defensive tackle Nick Fairley and left tackle Lee Ziemba.
Auburn was one of five schools to have two members named to the squad.
But Boise State’s Kellen Moore made the team at quarterback over Newton, who beat out Moore for the Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback) and Maxwell Award (best all-around player) this week.
A committee of 12 FWAA members chooses the FWAA team.