After winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship this season, Cam Newton had little left to accomplish his senior year at Auburn. Which is why he’s going pro.
The Tigers star quarterback will aspire to be an NFL first-round pick next after announcing his decision Thursday to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. Newton put together one of the greatest seasons in college football history this year, capped off with a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS title game Monday.
Many expected Newton to declare for the draft after leading the Tigers to a 14-0 season and their first national championship since 1957. The quarterback spent just one season on Auburn’s campus, but said it was a “difficult” decision nonetheless to leave the school and go from playing football on Saturdays to Sundays.
"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."
In addition to his play this season – which earned the Heisman, broke a handful of SEC records and garnered a slew of national accolades – Newton also received plenty of press after reports claimed his father, Cecil, asked for a pay-for-play plan from Mississippi State when shopping around his son’s recruitment.
The reports clouded Newton’s otherwise flawless season and led him to be ineligible for a day. But the NCAA reinstated him almost immediately and ultimately deemed Newton’s father to be guilty of wrongdoing, not Cam.
Nevertheless, money will no longer be an issue for Newton, who is likely to earn plenty of it in the NFL. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Newton boasts an incredible combination of speed, strength and accuracy. He rushed for an SEC-record 1,409 yards and 21 touchdowns and passed for additional 2,589 yards and 28 TDs this season. He also became the first SEC player to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in the same year. In an early mock draft, SI.com’s Andrew Perloff has Newton going No. 16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with many QB-needy teams the Heisman winner could go even higher.
Newton isn’t the only Tiger expected to announce his NFL intentions this week. Star defensive tackle and Lombardi Award-winner Nick Fairley is likely to announce his decision to go pro today. While Newton stole most of the headlines this season, some experts predict Fairley going as high as No. 1 in the 2011 Draft.
Here’s what to watch tonight (all times Eastern):
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (8 p.m., ESPN)
Dallas has gone just 2-6 while Dirk Nowitzki continues to heal from a sprained knee. The road doesn’t get any easier for the short-handed Mavs tonight when they take on the Spurs, owners of the NBA’s best record (33-6) and winners of four straight.
Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns (10:30 p.m., ESPN)
Portland will try to take advantage of the league’s worst defense, but could be without star Brandon Roy for the rest of the season. The Blazers shooting guard is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery in both knees next week.
BY THE NUMBERS
2 – Misdemeanor charges former NFL great Lawrence Taylor plead guilty to Thursday for sexual misconduct and patronizing a 16-year-old prostitute. Taylor won’t serve any jail time, but will serve six years of probation and must register as a sex offender.
21 – Points scored by Carmelo Anthony in the Denver Nuggets’ 130-102 victory over the Miami Heat, the team’s biggest loss of the season. LeBron James sat out the game with a sprained ankle. SI.com’s Ian Thomsen delivers his take from the beatdown.
$35 million – Size of relief pitcher Rafael Soriano’s three-year deal with the New York Yankees. The former Rays pitcher led the league with 45 saves last season, but will serve as Mariano Rivera’s setup man in the Bronx.