A moment later, spouses got the all-clear. Players and coaches and their wives and children took turns posing with the crystal football. While his teammates passed the trophy around—"This is some serious ice!" proclaimed cornerback T'Sharvan Bell—Newton was 10 feet away with his back to them, standing, but slumped over the stage, cradling his head in his arms. He stayed that way for at least five minutes, soaking in the immensity of the moment, surrounded by teammates yet somehow by himself.
At the press conference, he was asked whether he will return to Auburn for his senior season. His boilerplate reply—"I'm not gonna make that decision right now. I'm going to sit down with Coach Chizik and my family"—offered little hope for back-to-back titles for Auburn fans. It sounded as if Newton has decided that it's finally time to get paid.
Now on SI.com
For off-season coverage, including Stewart Mandel's Mailbag, go to SI.com/cfb