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_If he’s going to be an early first-round pick, it’s hard to put that off.

_The lingering cloud of an NCAA investigation into his recruitment out of junior college is still hanging over Newton.

The NCAA ruled that his father tried to get Mississippi State to pay for Newton to play for the Bulldogs. There was no evidence Newton knew what his father did or that Auburn was involved, so he was allowed to keep playing. But the case is not closed.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who finished second to Newton in the Heisman voting, is also facing a stay-or-go-decision as a third-year sophomore.

Luck has started for two seasons, has played in a prostyle offense under former NFL quarterback and Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh and is generally thought to be a lock to be drafted in the first few picks.

Luck, whose father, Oliver Luck, played in the NFL, said he’ll talk to his family and coaches after the Cardinal play in the Orange Bowl then decide whether to leave school early.

“I haven’t given it too much thought,” Luck said before the Heisman ceremony. “I am going to sit down with my parents and talk to coach Harbaugh, mostly likely friends, and see what’s best.”

The last player in Andrew Luck’s situation was Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who won the Heisman as a third-year sophomore in 2008.

Bradford returned to school for another year, suffered a shoulder injury that wiped out most of his season, and still ended up being the top pick overall in the last draft.

Newton, of course, has said he’ll think about the NFL after the BCS championship game.

The NFL, though, is already thinking about him.

“The sky’s the limit for that kid,” Brandt said.