It’s no breaking news that Auburn legend Cam Newton was back on campus this spring semester. For students and fans, seeing his face around brought back the excitement of the 2010 season, the 28-27 Iron Bowl, the SEC Championship win against Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks, and, eventually, bringing home the BCS National Championship trophy for the first time since 1957. Countless selfies from eager fans flooded social media while students crowded his classrooms just for a peek at the now-Carolina Panthers quarterback.
Since his first day back, the attention from student fans has been hard to avoid, but Newton said it’s relatively normal for him.
“It’s something that you just have to get used to,” Newton said. “Every time I come to Auburn, it’s nothing but love.”
Newton said his return to school was under his mother’s wishes, regardless of his success as an NFL quarterback.
“It was a promise that I made to her,” Newton said. “My mom was more compassionate about how I would be treated off the field. Throughout the process, before I even knew what school I was going to go to, she wanted me to vow to her that whatever school I do decide, I would graduate from. She wasn’t playing, she was serious, and I was sincere.”
When Auburn hands him the sociology degree he’s been working for, he said he has special plans on where to keep it.
“When I do get my diploma, I’m going to put it right above my mom’s door, so she knows her words were not in vain,” Newton said. “All my awards that mean the world to me are implanted (in her house), and this is no different. If anything, it’s going right along next to the Heisman.”
Although he received his diploma for his mother, he said it’s not only for her sake.
“I was always asked, ‘Cam, why?’” Newton said. “’Why are you coming back?’ And as I get more educated about sociology, and education as a whole, shame on me if I don’t use my influence in a positive way. Someone may look at my situation and say, ‘He may be financially set, but yet he’s bettering himself.’ Maybe I can encourage somebody else who is in my situation or is down and out [to] always strive for a better you and that’s what this was pretty much all about: making myself better.”
As Newton finishes up his final semester in the chase for a sociology degree, he said he is thankful for the opportunity, but has decided it would be best not to walk in the graduation ceremony.
“I’m not walking across the stage,” Newton said. “Number one, I don’t think walking really solidifies anything for me. I have pretty much conquered the main reason why I’m here, and all I really need is a degree. Plus, I don’t want to take away anything from the people already graduating. After seeing the response coming from class, I wouldn’t want to take anything away from another person’s (graduation day).“
With his degree in the bag, Newton said he plans to one day use it to open up a day care center when his football career comes to a close.
“I think sociology has done so much great for me in understanding people and different attitudes,” Newton said. “Hopefully that pays dividends in the long run.”
With their comeback this year, the Toomer’s Oaks hold a special place for Newton, who shares fond memories with them in the 2010 football season.
“It meant so much to not only myself, but to everyone that shares any type of compassion for Auburn,” Newton said. “If you went to school here or you’re just a fan or you know somebody who’s been following Toomer’s Corner, it’s great to see that so much of Auburn’s tradition is Toomer’s Corner and (that it is back) in a positive light.”
For him, it seems like his spotlight on the team was yesterday.
“(That season is) implanted on my heart for the rest of my life,” Newton said. “(There’s) so much that I feel I owe to Auburn because, in my most vulnerable state, it was easy for so many people to say, ‘He’s just another person, he’s just this and that,’ but yet so many people embraced me with open arms, and it was something that I would never regret or ever take advantage of for the rest of my life.”
Reflecting on his time as a student, Newton said the Auburn dynamic is hard to understand from the outside.
“That’s kind of hard to explain due to the fact that if you’re not from Auburn, if you haven’t been to Auburn, if you’ve never met a person from Auburn, you won’t be able to relate to me,” Newton said. “But yet this is the place where if you walk around and say ‘War Eagle,’ that means you’re tied at the hip, you’re family. No matter different race, color, creed, language barrier; no matter what it is, that ‘War Eagle’ goes a long way for so many people and it means so much. Those two words, it’s a lifestyle. It’s the way you carry yourself each and every day, and that’s the standard we hold ourselves up to, to become Auburn men and women.”