NEW YORK – Auburn’s Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night the same way he played all season – running away from the competition.
The prohibitive favorite, Newton, a 6-foot-6 quarterback who led the Tigers to a 13-0 record, SEC championship and spot in the BCS national title game against Oregon, officially claimed college football’s highest individual honor at the Best Buy Theater near Times Square in the 76th annual presentation of the award.
“I’m a living testimony that anything is possible,” Newton said afterward, getting choked up during his acceptance speech.
Newton was voted first on 729 of 926 ballots cast (78.7 percent), the third-highest percentage in the history of the award behind Troy Smith (2006) and Charlie Ward (1993).
Newton finished with 2,263 points, well ahead of the competition. Stanford’s Andrew Luck was a distant second with 1,079. The 1,184-point difference was the 11th largest in the history of the award.
Oregon’s LaMichael James finished third with 916 points and Boise State’s Kellen Moore fourth at 635.
Newton joined Pat Sullivan (1971) and Bo Jackson (1985) as Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winners. The Tigers are the ninth school to have three or more winners of the award. They are tied with Florida for the most by an SEC school.
“This is a phenomenal young man,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “He’s different on the field and he’s different off the field. He’s a great kid. We get much joy and much satisfaction out of seeing our own get the benefits and see the fruits of his labor, which are many. It’s very well deserved, no question about it. Everything he gets he’s worked for and he deserves every bit of it.”
The quarterback, who signed with Auburn last December after playing at Blinn College in Texas, is the fifth junior college transfer to win the award, joining Navy’s Roger Staubach (1963), USC’s O.J. Simpson (1968), Nebraska’s Mike Rozier (1983) and Ward (1993).
“You have good ideas of what you’d love them to be,” Chizik said. “But I can’t say a year ago that I thought we’d be sitting here.”
If not for the recruiting scandal that dogged him in the last month, Newton’s win could have been historic.
He was left off 105 voters’ ballots. Of the voters who did include Newton, 95 percent of them had the quarterback first. Smith set the record by getting 86 percent of the first-place votes in 2006.
Newton’s awards haul this postseason has been impressive. Earlier this week in Orlando, Fla., he swept three major national awards: the Walter Camp (national player of the year), Davey O’Brien (top quarterback) and Maxwell (best all-around player).
A dual-threat quarterback, Newton had one of the most statistically impressive seasons in recent memory. He threw for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns, ran for 1,409 yards and 20 more scores and even caught a TD pass.