Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton talks with head coach Gene Chizik before the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
Coach Gene Chizik wants Auburn fans to remember quarterback Cam Newton for more than the on-the-field exploits that culminated with the Tigers winning a national championship and Newton running away with the Heisman Trophy.And he means that in a good way.
Chizik defends the No. 1 NFL draft pick in the upcoming book "All In: What It Takes To Be the Best" but describes it as "really a story about football, family and faith."
"I think me going to bat for Cameron Newton is something that just in my spirit and my heart, I feel very strongly about," Chizik said Wednesday. "He's a very gifted person and not just as an athlete. He's an amazing kid. He needs to be remembered at Auburn as a great individual as well as a great player."
Newton, who's now with the Carolina Panthers, was a lightning-rod for controversy late in the season with the NCAA investigating a pay-for-play scheme that involved his father Cecil during Newton's recruitment at Mississippi State.
Chizik discussed the book -- and Newton -- in a conference call with reporters ahead of its Tuesday release that will have him hit the road for a promotional tour with nine stops in four states, starting in Ridgewood, N.J. All proceeds go to his family's You Turn Foundation.
He said doing the book required "a lot of midnight phone calls" with co-author David Thomas and sessions during spring break, and that he wanted to make sure it didn't take away from either family time or his day job.
Chizik declined to discuss the recent recruitment of former North Carolina State quarterback and pro baseball player Russell Wilson. Wilson ended up choosing to spend his final season at Wisconsin.
"Obviously I don't discuss recruiting," Chizik said.
In the book, Chizik talks about his departure after two seasons at Iowa State to take the Auburn job despite a 5-19 record that led many to question the hiring, as well as the Tigers' national title run and 14-0 record.
He's hoping that personal and team success story will resonate with even non-football fans who have been through trials like illness, death of a spouse or divorce. Their own equivalent of having to rise from a 5-19 record.
"It's the story of 100-plus special young guys who in August 2010, nobody had on their radar for a national championship, but in January 2011 was holding that crystal football," Chizik said. "There's a message of hope in the book that people can get out of that, overcome and keep pressing toward the prize, even if you have a 5-19 in your life."