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Auburn Heisman winner Newton declares for NFL Draft

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Cam Newton is going to to the NFL, and maybe leaving the controversy behind.

Auburn said Thursday night that the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is skipping his senior season to enter the draft after one season as a major college starter, which included the Tigers' first national championship in 53 years and a pay-for-play scandal.

Newton and Auburn capped a 14-0 season with a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS title game Monday night. He said the decision was "difficult for me and my family."

"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."

Now, the national champions are waiting on Lombardi Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley to announce his NFL decision Friday morning in his hometown of Mobile. Fairley might be the No. 1 overall pick, but the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton is the guy that coach Gene Chizik called "probably the best football player I've ever seen" after the SEC championship game.

Both are junior college transfers, though Fairley has spent two seasons with the Tigers.

Newton is a former backup to Tim Tebow at Florida who arrived after leading Blinn College in Texas to a JUCO national championship. He won on a much bigger stage with the Tigers.

"We appreciate Cameron's many contributions to Auburn and the outstanding leader that he was for our football team," Chizik said. "He had one of the greatest individual seasons ever by an Auburn player and was a key part of our championship run. Cam will always be a member of the Auburn family and we wish him the best in his future endeavors."

The College Park, Ga., native was chosen the Walter Camp and The Associated Press Player of the Year. Newton also won the Maxwell Award as the nation's top player and the Davey O'Brien Award as the best quarterback.

The dual-threat star brought joy to Auburn, but some troubles also came with him. He played under a cloud the last two months of the season after reports surfaced that his father, Cecil, shopped his services during Mississippi State's recruitment of his son.

All that came of it so far is that Auburn declared Newton ineligible the week of the SEC championship game against South Carolina and the NCAA reinstated him a day later. The NCAA said it hasn't closed the case but that it had no evidence at the time that Cam Newton knew about his father's solicitation.

The case may prompt a new addition -- call it "Newton's Law" -- in the NCAA rule book.

It was prominent and polarizing enough that NCAA president Mark Emmert, speaking at the governing body's annual convention Thursday, called for new rules ensuring that parents can't "sell the athletic services" of their children.

"If you look at the Newton case, a lot of people came away from that, because it's a complicated case, saying, 'Gosh, it's OK for a father to solicit money for the services for his son or daughter?'" Emmert told reporters afterward. "The answer to that is no, it isn't. But we don't have a rule that makes that clear."

On the field, Newton rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns while passing for 2,854 yards and 30 TDs. He set Auburn season records for both rushing and passing TDs and total offense and an SEC mark for yards on the ground by a quarterback.

Newton injured his back during the national title game but still passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 64.

He was good enough to prompt South Carolina coach and 1966 Heisman winner Steve Spurrier to marvel: "You can't tackle him. He's almost a one-man show."