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April 28, 2011

Two first-round selections

Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the first player selected in the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday night as the Heisman-winning quarterback was chosen by the Carolina Panthers. His former Auburn teammate, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, was taken 12 picks later by the Detroit Lions.

It is the first time Auburn has had multiple first round picks since 2005 and fourth since 1987.

"I feel great. I'm ready to get this show on the road right now," said Newton. "It's a warmth in my heart knowing that I'm going to an excellent city and an excellent organization with excellent people around me that's running the organization."

Newton played just one season at Auburn leading the Tigers to a 14-0 record, an SEC title and a BCS national championship. He was the Tigers' first Maxwell Award winner and first Davey O'Brien winner. Newton also won the Walter Camp National Player of the Year Award.

Carolina finished last in the NFL in total offense in 2010. The Panthers averaged less than 200 yards of offense per game.

Newton found out he would add No. 1 draft pick to his resume minutes before the fans.

"As soon as Coach Ron Rivera called me, it warmed my heart knowing that this deal is done and my work to some degree has paid off," said Newton.

In his one season, Newton became the third player in NCAA FBS history to total 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in a single season. He also became the first player in SEC history and the ninth different player in NCAA history to reach totals of 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season.

"I'm blessed to be part of a great organization and I'm just ready to get to work," Newton said.

Newton is the fourth player from Auburn to be the top pick in the NFL Draft joining Tucker Frederickson (1965), Bo Jackson (1986) and Aundray Bruce (1988).

Newton is the first Auburn player drafted in the first round since 2007 when offensive lineman Ben Grubbs was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 29 pick. Fairley is the second.

The Lions selected Fairley with the No. 13 overall pick Thursday night.

"I'm thankful that they came and picked me to be part of that group and I'm ready to get to work," said Fairley.

He will be working alongside Ndamukong Suh, who was drafted by the Lions second overall in the 2010 draft and was the winner of the 2009 Lombardi Award.

"He gave me some great pointers and for me to be next to him, he will hopefully take me under his wings and show me the ropes as a rookie," said Fairley. "I'm ready to go in there and get the work done and put the hard work and time into it, on the field and in the film room."

During Auburn's 14-0 national championship season, Fairley totaled 60 tackles, 36 solos, 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. He also forced and recovered two fumbles and had an interception.

Fairley played two seasons at Auburn winning the Lombardi Award as a junior in 2010. Fairley set Auburn single-season records for tackles for loss and sacks.

Many NFL draft prognosticators projected Fairley to be selected by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 8 overall pick. Tracy Rocker, who coached Fairley at Auburn, is now the Titans' defensive line coach. Tennessee was believed to be looking to draft a defensive lineman, but the Titans instead chose Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

"I'm just happy," said Fairley. "I've been telling everybody that even though I went No. 13, it's my No. 1 pick. I'm ready to go, I can't wait to get to the 'D'."

Newton and Fairley are the first two Auburn players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft under coach Gene Chizik. Chizik enters his third year at Auburn in 2011.

"I think it's great for Cam and Nick, and their families," Chizik said. "You think about all the work that has gone into the last 20-something years of them dreaming of a day like this. Now we get to come and see the fruits of their labor.

"It's awesome for Auburn. It's awesome for their families. It's awesome for the Auburn family."




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