NEW YORK - Cam Newton thanked his mother, then his father. And then he paused to compose himself.
Cecil Newton was back in Georgia, though his son put him squarely in the room where the Auburn quarterback accepted college football's biggest award Saturday night — the Heisman Trophy.
"Thank you for all you did for me," he told his parents, adding. "To my father, I love you so much."
There was no doubt Newton would win the Heisman. Whether he gets to keep it is still uncertain.
Newton brushed off an investigation that determined his father violated NCAA rules as he did so many tacklers this season and captured the Heisman in a landslide vote.
That didn't mean it all wasn't tinged with sadness because his father was not there.
"I'd be sitting up here lying to you if I didn't say it hurt," Newton said during the ESPN telecast before the winner was announced. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I love my father. He gave me words of encouragement before I came up here. I know he's with me in spirit."
"Honestly, it's a dream come true for me, something every child has a dream (about) that plays the sport of football, and I'm living testimony that anything is possible," Newton said.
Oregon running back LaMichael James was third, followed by Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, the other finalist.
Newton didn't look a bit surprised when his name was announced inside the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. A wide smile spread across his face and he dropped his head.
After exchanging hugs and handshakes with the other finalists, he and his mother, Jackie, shared a long embrace.
"When I reached my mother I really didn't want to let go," Newton said. "It's been hard for me, but it's been extremely hard for her just to see how much her son has been through and I just wanted to hug her the whole night to make her feel at ease."
"Oh my God," he whispered as he reached into his inside jacket packet to pull out his speech.
On the field and off, Newton has been the story of the college football season. He's carried the top-ranked Tigers to the BCS national championship game against No. 2 Oregon, running and passing over opponents who looked helpless trying to stop him. But his story is stained: Last month the NCAA determined his father tried to peddle him to Mississippi State for cash.
However, the NCAA cleared him to play before the Southeastern Conference title game because it found no evidence that he or Auburn knew about Cecil Newton's pay-for-play scheme. It also suggested that it was still investigating, as were the FBI and the Mississippi secretary of state's office. Cam Newton has denied any wrongdoing.
Still, it invites speculation that the newest Heisman winner could perhaps be heading down the same path as Reggie Bush, who returned his trophy three months ago after the NCAA ruled that he and his family received cash and gifts while he was at Southern California.
Asked about the possibility during his news conference, Newton said firmly: "Two letters for you my friend — No."
To be eligible for the Heisman, a player must be in good standing with the NCAA. And for most of November, that was unclear following claims by a Mississippi State booster who said Newton's father tried to get the Bulldogs to pay $180,000 for his son to play for them.
So Cecil Newton stayed home. In a statement released by his lawyer earlier in the week, he said his presence could "rob Cam and the event of a sacred moment."
All the uncertainty didn't keep voters from making Newton an overwhelming choice — he received the sixth most first-place votes and the third highest percentage of first-place votes. Though 105 voters among the 886 who returned ballots chose not to list him among their three selections.
"Obviously, like most people, I have my suspicions, but I don't think it's my position to pretend to know what is happening with the NCAA investigation," said voter Stewart Mandel of SI.com.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Former Penn State President Graham Spanier is asking a county judge to throw out criminal charges accusing him of helping to cover up abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
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