There probably hasn’t been a Heisman candidate this decade with such strong credentials for the title of Outstanding College Football Player in The Nation as Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton. Newton’s numbers are phenomenal: as a passer. 123 completions in 185 attempts for 1890 yards (a 10.3 average), 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. And as a runner, 176 attempts for 1,146 yards (a 6.5 average) with 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. And that’s with two games still to play.
Most observers think he’s better than fomer Texas Heisman runner-up Vince Young (currently playing for the Tennessee Titans) or Tim Tebow (now with the Denver Broncos). Really, Newton might be the first player in Heisman history to contend for Trophy as either a passer or runner, let alone both.
But as Auburn prepares to play longtime rival Georgia this Saturday, Newton’s stock among Heisman voters may be dropping quickly – Oregon tailback LaMichael James and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore are gaining ground on Newton.
Why? Not because of anything Newton’s done on the field, where he’s lead a surprising Auburn team to a real shot at the national title (currently ranked No. 2 by the BCS). And not for anything he’s done off the field, or at least nothing that’s been proven yet. Rumors out of Mississippi have been floating that last year when Newton was looking to move up from a junior college in Texas, a former Mississippi State player named Kenny Rogers, who runs a Chicago company called the Elite Football Preparation and is listed as a sports agent for the firm, told a former teammate that he could deliver Newton to MSU for $180,000.
While the NCAA is investigates the claims, there is no evidence as yet that Newton or his family took any money, least of all from Mississippi State – or more to the point, from Auburn, the school Newton finally opted for.
It appears as if this might prevent Newton from winning the much deserved award is neither Oregon’s James or Boise State’s Moore, but Reggie Bush. Heisman voters may be wary that another payola scandal such as the one that resulted in Bush giving back the Heisman he won in 2005 could be brewing. On the other hand, as CBS’s Gary Danielson put it on Saturday, “What kind of injustice would it be if they don’t give Newton the trophy and no proof of wrongdoing is ever found?