AUBURN – The storm of controversy that has suddenly engulfed Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was set off by an agent’s “runner” whose veracity is being questioned by the NFL Players Association.
Former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond said that Kenny Rogers, a former teammate, told him it would take $180,000 to sign Newton when he was being recruited out of Blinn (Texas) College last December. He signed with Auburn.
Since the story broke, columnists across the nation have slammed Newton, essentially declaring him guilty as charged.
Rogers has problems of his own.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in an interview with Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com that Smith is suspected of impersonating and NFLPA official in an effort to get players to sign with Chicago-based agent Ian Greengross.
"We have one serious issue under consideration right now,” Smith said. We're looking at facts where an agent may have had a runner who was posing as an NFLPA employee. That investigation is continuing. I can promise you that if the facts turn out the way that we think right now - not only will we take action against the person who was falsely impersonating an NFLPA employee - we will look to see what action we will take against the agent, and also consider whether there's any criminal violation. Then I'll make the appropriate referrals.
"I think that's an insidious problem. I think that any agent or contract advisor who does that and preys upon kids like that in college is something that we're going to deal with extremely aggressively.”
According to the story, Rogers called the investigation “crazy.”
Asked if he was concerned about possible ramifications, Rogers said, "Hell, yeah. Man, nobody needs his name tarnished, especially when I do what I do to try to put kids in school. I don't need nothing like that.”
Auburn compliance officials, made aware last summer of the allegations, looked through literally thousands of phone records and other documents, athletic department sources said. There was no evidence, the sources said, that anyone from Auburn had ever had a conversation with Rogers.
Auburn was late getting into the recruiting race for Newton, who started his career at Florida. Auburn coaches had become concerned that freshman Tyrik Rollison was not the long-term answer. Rollison left the team not long afterward.
When Newton finished his career at Westlake High School, he had interest in Auburn. But Auburn did not offer him a scholarship.
Newton has led Auburn to a 9-0 record, No. 2 national ranking and has become perhaps the best-known player in college football, not only because his exploits on the field but because of the passion and enthusiasm with which he plays. He has already broken the SEC record for rushing yards by a quarterback and leads the nation in touchdown responsibility.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik, saying he couldn’t comment in detail, made his support for Newton clear during Tiger Talk, his weekly radio show, on Thursday night.
"Unfortunately, I can't comment on it," Chizik said. "But here's what I can and I will this say very loud and very clear: Cameron Newton is eligible at Auburn University, period. End of story,''