SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - While in New York for all the hoopla surrounding the Heisman Trophy ceremonies, Oregon running back LaMichael James and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton became fast friends.
They chat often, even as both players prepare on opposite sides for Monday's BCS title game.
"When we were in New York we spent a lot of time with each other and Andrew Luck. I think we were just really together all the time," James said. "We had no choice but to become friends and we identify with each other. That just added to the friendship."
Newton, of course, won the Heisman amid controversy over what the NCAA has said was a failed pay-for-play deal led by his father, Cecil, during Newton's recruitment by Mississippi State.
Luck was runner-up, while James was third in the voting.
"Me and LaMichael are very close," Newton said. "We just keep each other's spirits up. Text messaging each other, just seeing how each other is doing."
James said the two have never mentioned the game. And, he pointed out, they won't even be on the field at the same time.
"I mean, I don't play defense, so, I mean, we can keep our friendship cool, you know?" he said.
NO LUCK FOR OREGON: Chip Kelly was less than thrilled to find out about Andrew Luck's decision to return to Pac-10 rival Stanford for another season.
"Yeah, I threw up, to be honest with you," Kelly said with his typical sarcasm.
Luck, the Cardinal's sophomore quarterback, very likely would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in April. Instead, he decided to stick around school another year and make Stanford a Pac-10 and national title contender next season.
"I love Andrew," Kelly said. "I got a chance to meet him at the Heisman Trophy. He is an awesome kid. Just awesome."
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is going to face a similar decision as Luck, who was runner-up to Newton for the Heisman Trophy.
Newton said he was "shocked" to hear Luck was going to return to school.
"But I respect his decision," he said.
Newton is a junior, but having only started for one season, there are still some questions about how good an NFL prospect he is. Though at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, with a strong arm and all that mobility, he certainly looks like a guy who could play in the NFL.
He has brushed off questions about his future this week.
WAR EAGLE: Tackle Lee Ziemba sounds like a history professor when a reporter asks him to explain the origin of Auburn's "War Eagle" battle cry. Or at least the son of two Auburn graduates.
"Late in the 19th century there was a Civil War veteran who found an eagle on the battlefield, with kind of a broken wing," Ziemba said. "He brought it back home to Auburn, which was Alabama Polytechnic at the time. He kind of kept it as a pet, nursed it back to health. It still couldn't fly.
"But we were playing Georgia one time and the eagle took off (from) his arm and started flying around the field. Auburn scored and the eagle dropped dead on the field and everybody yelled, 'War eagle.' That's the story behind that."
Or at least the most popular legend, dating back to the Civil War and the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia.
The "War Eagle" battle cry does cause some confusion for a team nicknamed the "Tigers."
They chant "Warrr Eagle" before kickoffs. But it's a multi-use phrase.
"It's the same thing as an Arkansas fan saying 'Woo pig sooey' or a 'Bama fan saying 'Roll Tide,"' Ziemba said. "It's what we say."
Or as quarterback Cam Newton says, "We get that a lot about, 'Y'all are Tigers, why do y'all say War Eagle?' That's just our war chant"
CAM'S DAD: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton expects his father to be in the state, if not the stadium. He has said Cecil Newton is among relatives making the trip from Georgia for the game.
"I'm not aware if he is coming to the game," Newton said. "My mom hasn't sent me the list. For me, not just to single out my father, but I want my mom there, I want my brothers there, I want my aunts there. That will play an interesting role of me being comfortable going into this game."
The NCAA has said Cecil Newton was involved in an attempt to get money during his son's recruitment by Mississippi State. As a result, Auburn has given him "limited access" to the athletic program, but hasn't publicly defined the restrictions. Cecil Newton didn't attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony and TV cameras captured his mother at the SEC championship game without him.