AUBURN, Ala. -- Quarterback Cam Newton, who re-emerged from the junior college ranks to win the Heisman Trophy and BCS national championship in his one year at Auburn, is forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Newton announced his not-surprising decision in a news release sent by the school Thursday night after consulting with head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
“It was a very hard decision for me, especially after coming off the great season we had at Auburn,” Newton said. “I’m blessed to have been around an excellent environment and have great teammates, coaches and support from the Auburn family.”
The decision comes only three days after Newton helped lead Auburn to a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS title game for its first national championship since 1957.
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“It’s been a blessing for me to be a part of something so great,” Newton said. “Any time you win games, it’s a big deal, but for this school to win a BCS national championship, what a way to make people happy. Auburn is a special place that I can call home.”
Newton, Tim Tebow’s former backup at Florida who signed with Auburn out of Blinn College in Texas on Dec. 31, 2009, was amazing and controversial in his one year on the Plains.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound dual-threat overwhelmed defenses all season, rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns while passing for 2,854 yards and 30 scores. In December, he became the school’s third Heisman Trophy winner after leading the Tigers to their first SEC championship since 2004.
Newton broke numerous Auburn single-season records, including rushing touchdowns (20), passing touchdowns (30), touchdowns responsible for (51), total offense (4,327) and rushing yards by a quarterback (1,473).
In addition to the Heisman Trophy, Newton received player of the year awards from the Walter Camp Football Foundation and Associated Press. He also won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top player and the Davey O’Brien Award as the country’s top quarterback.
“He had one of the greatest individual seasons ever by an Auburn player and was a key part of our championship run,” Chizik said. “Cam will always be a member of the Auburn family and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
But Newton’s year wasn’t without controversy, hounded by allegations of impropriety by his father during his recruitment. News that his father, Cecil, solicited $180,000 from Mississippi State for his son to sign there out of Blinn dominated news cycles for a month from early November to December.
Based on available evidence, the NCAA cleared Newton and Auburn of any wrongdoing, saying neither had any knowledge of Cecil’s activities.
Newton was ruled ineligible for one day in a procedural matter before being reinstated in time for the SEC championship game.
Newton is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick. Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 27 draft-eligible prospect but the third-ranked quarterback, behind Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Washington’s Jake Locker.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who has Newton ranked 14th on his big board of draft prospects, doesn’t think Newton’s sub-par performance in the national championship game will hurt his stock.
“He won the game,” Kiper said Thursday. “Let’s not forget about that. He’s won his whole career. He’s been winning games his whole career -- no matter if it’s been at Florida, Blinn junior college or certainly this past year at Auburn.
“If he’s a top-five pick, intangibles will get him there. If he’s a late first-round pick, it’s because the intangibles failed him. That’ll be decided over the next two or three months.”