NEW YORK -- Cheering, singing and blasting marching band music, hundreds of Auburn fans gathered to welcome Cam Newton in front of the Broadway theater where the Heisman Trophy was set to be awarded.
The Tigers’ star was the overwhelming favorite to win the award as college football’s most outstanding player later Saturday night.
Fans clad in orange and blue and carrying signs with slogans such as “War Cam Eagle” arrived nearly an hour ahead of time to recreate an Auburn tradition. Fans normally line the path into Jordan-Hare stadium in a “Tiger Walk” for players before games.
Newton took the two-block walk over to a midtown Manhattan hotel before the ceremony for a brief news conference and meeting with reporters.
He was asked about a quote attributed to him in an ESPN report last month. An unidentified Mississippi State recruiter told ESPN that Newton said he picked Auburn over Mississippi State because “the money was too much.”
Newton avoided answering the question.
“I think tonight takes along something that’s very special to me right now and the last thing I’d like to talk about would be (something) of that caliber,” he said.
The NCAA ruled that Newton’s father tried to engineer a play-for-pay scheme that would have sent his son to Mississippi State. The NCAA also said there was no evidence Newton or Auburn knew about his father’s dealings, so the star junior was not punished.
Through it all, Auburn fans have passionately supported Newton.
The big city version of the “Tiger Walk” organized with less than a week’s notice by a New York alumni club appeared to be a smash hit -- Newton beamed as he arrived in front of the entrance to the Best Buy Theater.
Auburn graduate Mary Kathryn Papaioannou helped make it happen.
The 24-year-old law student at New York University was there in a blue No. 2 Auburn jersey, holding up an iPod dock that blared all the marching band songs she had on her pink iPod.
When Newton arrived -- and long before -- the fans furiously waved their orange and blue “shakers” -- the Southeastern Conference term for pom-poms. They’re a ubiquitous sight at southern football games, but not exactly the sort of thing you can buy in New York -- not even in the heart of Times Square.
The New York Auburn Club already thought of that.
“We brought 500 shakers and they were all given out,” Papaioannou said. “I had them stored in my dorm room -- 500 shakers in 400 square feet.”