In the large white house where Bill and Sarah Newton live and raised their family, photographs of perhaps the two most famous plays in Auburn football history hang on the wall. But they are not in a place of prominence.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
Bill Newton played the starring role in the drama that unfolded on Dec. 2, 1972, at Legion Field in Birmingham. But the two blocked punts that beat Alabama 17-16 are something he did. They are not who he is.
“I always get ribbed by my buddies, even today, about blocking those two punts,” Newtoin says. “It’s not something I normally sit down and boast about or anything. I’m proud of having done that, but I don’t go around with it written on my shirt or something. I do enjoy talking to Auburn people about it.”
Today, Newton is a business man living quietly on his farm near Fayette, some 50 miles west of Tuscaloosa. He and Sarah, a member of the Auburn Board of Trustees, have raised three sons.
Newton will forever be remembered by Auburn people for what he did that day against Alabama. To his teammates, he was a loyal friend, a player who was at his best in the biggest games and a tireless worker who beat the odds just to wear an Auburn jersey. They showed their respect three decades later when they elected him president of the Auburn Football Lettermen’s Club.
Bob Newton, Bill’s twin brother, was a hot defensive line prospect after their senior season at Fayette High School. The Newtons wanted to go to Auburn, where their older brother, Joe, had been a basketball star. Auburn offered Bob a scholarship. There was no offer for Bill.
Bill went to Auburn anyway, lived in a small apartment, earned his scholarship and became an All-SEC linebacker. Long before he blocked a punt, he’d earned the respect of his teammates and his coaches. He had become part of the Auburn tradition of walk-ons making good.
Rusty Deen, a sophomore defensive end on the 1972 team, says it came as no surprise that former players turned to Newton for leadership.
“As soon as he showed up, you loved Bill Newton because of his personality,” Deen says. “He hustled. He outworked just about everybody. Everybody respected Bill because of his work habits and what a great person he was and still is. Bill Newton was a heck of a football player, one of the best I played with.”
Newton accomplished a lot as an Auburn football player. But at one time, he did not expect to get the opportunity. His father didn’t want his boys playing sports.
“He wanted us home in the afternoon,” says Newton, one of six children. “My older brother, Cliff, was a very good athlete, but he never got to play.:
After their father died of a stroke in 1965, coaches at Fayette High School pleaded with Burladine Newton to allow her boys to play. She relented. When her sons went off to Auburn, Burladine Newton followed them and worked as a fraternity house mother.
Newton’s house is on a 600-acre farm on the bank of the Sipsy River. It is on land that was owned by his parents and his grandmother. He and his oldest son built a hunting camp where many a story has been told by former Auburn players who, in their hearts, will be forever young.