Cam Newton: 'I did it the right way'

Updated: December 10, 2010, 11:53 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Quarterback Cam Newton said Thursday that he did nothing wrong at Auburn and that he decided to play for the Tigers because "Auburn possessed what's best for Cam Newton."

Newton's father, Cecil, was found by Auburn and the NCAA to have asked for money from Mississippi State in exchange for a letter of intent from his son, a violation of NCAA rules. Cam Newton said, "Everything I've done at this university, I did it the right way," in an interview Thursday with ESPN's Chris Fowler.

Newton
Newton

Newton was reinstated Dec. 1 by the NCAA "without conditions" and allowed to play for Auburn, a day after the school had declared him ineligible.

The NCAA had concluded a violation of Newton's amateur status had occurred, but "based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement," Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, said in a statement.

ESPN.com reported Nov. 4 that a man, later identified as former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers, had called former teammate John Bond in 2009 and said he was representing the Newtons. Bond said Rogers solicited a six-figure payment to secure the quarterback's signature on a national letter of intent to Mississippi State.

Rogers has worked with sports agent Ian Greengross and has a company called Elite Football Preparation.

On Nov. 9, two sources who recruit for Mississippi State told ESPN of a pay-for-play scheme to gain Newton's services. The sources told ESPN that prior to Newton's commitment to Auburn, Cecil Newton told a recruiter that it would take "more than a scholarship" to get his son, then in junior college, to Mississippi State, a request the sources said the school would not meet.

Mississippi State turned its information over to the Southeastern Conference in January 2010.

The NCAA ruling said Auburn and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed Cecil Newton and the owner of a scouting service worked together on a pay-for-play idea. It did not formally name Rogers, who nonetheless was banned by Mississippi State in a letter from the school to his lawyer.

"During that time, the only thing that I could do and the only thing that I did was tell the truth ... the truth will come out," Cam Newton said of his meeting with the NCAA.

Newton was asked about his interaction with both Mississippi State, which he visited in late November, and Auburn, where he signed a letter of intent on Dec. 31, 2009.

"I had no dealings with nobody at Mississippi State during the time that I came to Auburn," Newton said. "But Mississippi State knows it was between Mississippi State and Auburn. And if you've been following this, there's no secret. But I felt that, as a whole, Auburn possessed what's best for Cam Newton, and that's why I decided to come here on my decision."

Newton told ESPN he hadn't directly asked his father what transpired between him and Mississippi State, but "at the end of the day, I can look him in the eye and know he has my best interests at heart."

He said telling Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen -- who had been an assistant at Florida when Newton went there two years prior -- he would be going to Auburn was difficult. ESPN reported Nov. 9 that Newton had told a Mississippi State recruiter that his father had chosen Auburn because "the money was too much."

"I'm not here to talk about any reports," Newton said.

"I called Coach Mullen. I told him what I had in my heart at the time. I talked to him and his wife, Miss Megan, and we had an excellent conversation. They wished me the best, and I wished them the best."

He described the conversation as "emotional," but added: "I wouldn't have been able to go to sleep at night without me saying I called Coach Mullen, man to man, not hiding behind anything, and being able to say I called him because of the respect I have for him."

Newton was asked whether anything could have been misunderstood in his conversations with Mississippi State after he decided to go to Auburn. "Through my eyes, I feel like nothing was misunderstood ... I'm clear with everything I said during that conversation," he said.

Cecil Newton has not commented publicly since the NCAA ruling was issued but released a statement Thursday through George Lawson, the Atlanta-based Newton family attorney, stating that he will not attend the Heisman Trophy award ceremony.

Cam Newton is the favorite to receive the Heisman Trophy on Saturday in New York.

"For all of my 50 years of life, coupled with 25 years of marriage, I have made an exhausting attempt to be a good husband, father and generally a good person of integrity," Cecil Newton said. "The past 60 days have caused all that my family worked to accomplish to come into question.

"So that my son Cam Newton can receive all the honors and congratulations that he has worked so hard to accomplish without distraction, I have decided not to be in attendance at the ceremony as it will perhaps rob Cam and the event of a sacred moment."

Lawson said Cecil Newton cooperated with the NCAA throughout the entire process.

"Cam's father participated in the investigation truthfully and honestly in terms of what he knew and what he didn't know, regardless of the consequences," Lawson told WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Cam Newton was asked whether he thought his father had done anything wrong in the process. Newton said: "It's not for me to say, but I know if I pick up the phone, Cecil will be there."

"My love for him is unconditional," Newton said. "This situation can split a family, can split a team, can split any person's situations with anything, or it can bring a person together. Whatever me and my father have, it's me and my father. I respect him as a man; I respect him more being my father."

He said he and his father have not discussed the situation that ended with the NCAA ruling that his father had broken its rules.

"That's not something that I'm trying to get clarity of because I really don't care," Newton told Fowler. "At the end of the day, I can look him in his eye and he can look me in my eye and I can know that he has my best interest [in mind]."

He also said: "I'm not sitting up here saying that we all are prefect. Everybody's made mistakes. I'm not sitting up here saying what he did or what he did was wrong. Who am I up here to say that what he did is true or not. But I know that if I can call Cecil Newton right now, he'll pick up the phone."

Newton credited his teammates and Auburn coach Gene Chizik with helping him through the 24 hours between when he was ruled ineligible and then reinstated. "It was crazy for me," he said.

Newton, who was quoted earlier this season in Sports Illustrated as saying his father decided on his college choice, told Fowler he made the call himself.

"There are a lot of things we talked about; he was bringing up a lot of decisions, a lot of situations," Newton said. "But at the end of the day, I was still the one making the decision."

The NCAA and state officials continue to investigate the payment scheme, trying to determine who knew what and whether laws were broken.

Two lawyers from the Mississippi secretary of state's office met with Rogers and Doug Zeit, his attorney, for more than four hours Thursday afternoon in Waukegan, Ill.

Zeit said the discussion at his office was a "fact-finding mission" centered around an alleged conversation Nov. 27, 2009, when Rogers says Cecil Newton asked for up to $180,000 from two Mississippi State assistant coaches in exchange for his son's commitment to the Bulldogs.

Zeit said the two sides also discussed Rogers' phone calls made to Bill Bell and John Bond, two other former Mississippi State players who have been involved in the Newton saga.

"We basically talked about the same things we've been talking about for weeks -- Cecil Newton's solicitation and Kenny Rogers' involvement relaying that message," Zeit said. "We don't believe Kenny Rogers broke any laws and are looking forward to this situation being over."

Cam Newton was in Florida on Thursday for The Home Depot College Football Awards, where he picked up the Maxwell Award, given to the national player of the year, and the Davey O'Brien Award for the top quarterback. Earlier in the day, he won the Walter Camp player of the year award.

He was the SEC offensive player of the year after accounting for a nation-best 49 touchdowns and setting school records for both passing and rushing touchdowns in a season.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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