Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton has won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest award. Newton won in a landslide vote Dec. 11 despite an NCAA investigation that determined that his father attempted to sell his son’s services to the highest bidding school.

Investigators found that Cecil Newton engaged in a pay-for-play scheme, but found no evidence that his son was aware of it. The elder Newton chose not to attend the Heisman ceremony in New York, and Cam Newton said he felt his father’s absence.

“I’d be sitting up here lying to you if I didn’t say it hurts,” Newton said in an interview before the winner was announced, according to The New York Times. “It hurts me a lot. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”

Though the controversy may have cast doubt in the minds of some voters, Newton’s on-field performance made him a virtual lock for the award. Newton racked up 1,409 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, more than any other Southeastern Conference player, while also passing for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns. He will lead Auburn against Oregon for the Bowl Championship Series crown Jan. 10 in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.

Newton received the sixth-most first-place votes ever, according to ESPN. But 105 of the 886 voters who returned ballots chose not to list him among their three selections for the Heisman, an apparent sign that the taint of controversy weighed on some voters’ minds.

When Newton’s name was announced, he traded hugs and handshakes with the four other Heisman finalists, and shared a long embrace with his mother, Jackie.

“Honestly, it’s a dream come true for me, something every child has a dream that plays the sport of football, and I’m living testimony that anything is possible,” Newton said.

Junior quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford finished second in Heisman voting, while sophomore Oregon running back LaMichael James was third.