Cam Newton, the brilliant Auburn quarterback whose season was embroiled in controversy over his father's having sought payment for him to sign with Mississippi State, is the overwhelming favorite to win the 76th Heisman Trophy, which will be presented in New York City this Saturday. Should Newton find himself struggling with his acceptance speech for this delicate moment, SI offers the following rough draft.
Wow. Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm overwhelmed. The first thing I need to do is give some love to the other finalists, Oregon's LaMichael James, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore. In the past couple of days, it's been my pleasure to get to know them as people, and they're great guys, although I've noticed they always expect me to pick up the check. What's up with that?
I'm not going to pretend this isn't a little bit awkward, what with the NCAA's investigation into that whole pay-for-play thing. I mean, there's a reason I didn't speak to the media for a solid month before last week's SEC title game. Speaking of stiff-arms. [Allow laughter to subside.] But a few days before that game a big cloud was lifted, and after one long day my eligibility was restored. And so, without further ado, I want to thank new NCAA president Mark Emmert, and the members of the NCAA's reinstatement staff, for their well-considered, reasonable decision to let me keep playing this season—because goodness knows they had enough on my old man to throw the book at me.
I want to give it up for my dad, Cecil Newton, who's had a rough couple of months. Regardless of what you've heard about him, he's been a great father to me: a friend, a coach, an advocate, a sounding board, a tireless, hard-nosed negotiator. We've always been able to talk about everything—just not necessarily on the phone ever since those reports came out that the FBI might be sniffing around.
Dad taught me to never accept anything less than fair market value ... er, the best from myself, just as he always wanted what was best for me—and was willing to accept it in three easy payments in large, unmarked bills. Dad, we've been through a lot together [hurry-up delivery here, to discourage inappropriate laughter], although not so much since we got to New York, on account of my school's insistence that you have limited access to the team. (Sorry they made you get off the elevator the other day—our compliance officers keep telling me they're not sure what athletic director Jay Jacobs means by "access.")
As you can see, my dad is seated a comfortable distance from the next guy I want to salute, and that's my head coach, Gene Chizik, who's been like a second father to me—albeit one who has never tried to use me as an ATM. Coach, I couldn't have done any of this without you. And let's face it, after your 8--5 showing last year, you couldn't have done any of this without me. Wish me luck in the League next season.
Thanks to my teammates—you guys know I love you—and, while I'm at it, to all the teams in the Southeastern Conference, the best conference in the country! You guys forced me to up my game. So, yeah, thanks to everyone at the SEC. (Your investigation into the charges that my father shopped me around—since confirmed—didn't exactly remind anyone of Inspector Javert's pursuit of Jean Valjean.) [Possible shout-out to Auburn English department here?]
I want to salute some of the great men I've met over the last couple of days, Heisman winners who've come before me. [Turn, face them, smile.] Guys, it's been a privilege spending time with you. Thanks for your expressions of support, and advice—especially Reggie Bush's suggestion to get plenty of photos of myself with the trophy.
I believe that an evening as momentous as this one should be used not just for celebrating myself but for bridging divides, which is why I want to thank my former Division I school, the University of Florida, for giving me a scholarship—and for keeping my academic records sealed.
As long as I'm extending olive branches, I want to thank the University of Alabama for doing the right thing and firing the guy who played Take the Money and Run when I stepped on the field for warmups at the Iron Bowl two weeks ago.
Finally, I want to thank the Heisman voters for casting their ballots for me as the most "outstanding" player in college football, and not reading too deeply into that part on the award's website that mentions the "pursuit of excellence with integrity."
Mr. Emmert, sorry you had to take all that heat since you let me play. (I've heard those USC fans can be vicious.) I applaud your plan to toughen NCAA bylaws in the future to avoid situations in which a parent, in your words, "could 'shop around' a student-athlete and there would possibly not be repercussions on the student-athlete's eligibility."
By all means, close that loophole—as early as January 11th, 2011. I'm just grateful you opened it in the first place.
Now on SI.com
For more by Austin Murphy and coverage of the Heisman, go to SI.com/football/ncaa
"I'm not going to pretend this isn't A LITTLE BIT AWKWARD, what with that whole play-for-pay thing."
ILLUSTRATION BY DARROW