Seminoles QB dealt with assault probe on way to Heisman


NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — The Heisman Trophy winner is always going to draw a crowd, and that has been the case for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston this past week.

He was comfortable in the spotlight while meeting the press Friday and again Saturday morning during media day for the Bowl Championship Series national championship game.

Winston has even had some fun, almost taunting Texas fans by saying he wanted to play there, but never got a call. If Winston had become a Longhorn, Mack Brown probably would still be the school’s coach.

But Winston has never made too much of any moment, displaying a certain cool following his breakout performance in the season opener. After shredding Pittsburgh 41-13 by completing a ridiculous 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and accounting for five touchdowns in his first career start, Winston reacted as a veteran quarterback used to producing such numbers.

He would keep that calm demeanor through the controversy of a sexual assault allegation and kept playing stellar football all the way to joining Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel from last season as the only freshman Heisman winners.

So the days leading up to Monday’s title game against No. 2 Auburn at Rose Bowl Stadium aren’t too big for Winston, even given the long history of subpar bowl performances in these high-profile games by those owning college football’s most revered individual trophy.

“One thing I can tell you about history, it’s in the past,” Winston said. “I’m worried about what’s happening today, what’s happening on Monday, what I’ve got to do to prepare myself to do well in this game.

“History said that a freshman can’t win the Heisman Trophy last year, but Johnny Football did. Never see another freshman win this award. I did it this year. History is history.”

Winston is the face of top-ranked Florida State’s dominating season. The Seminoles’ closest game was a 48-34 victory at Boston College, and they outscored opponents by an average of 53-11.

At 6 feet 4 inches and 228 pounds, Winston has the build of a linebacker with the strong arm of a baseball pitcher.

He passed for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, both national records for a freshman. Winston also plays on the Seminoles’ baseball team, and he had a 3.00 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 27 innings last season.

His dream is to play in the NFL and in major league baseball, though whether a pro football team would let its quarterback play another sport is debatable.

“Both are my true loves,” Winston said. “I don’t see myself playing one without the other. Obviously, it may come to that day that I have to make a decision, but right now, I’m definitely not making a decision. I know I could play both.”

This, of course, hasn’t been entirely a dream season for Winston.

He was accused of sexual assault, prompting an investigation by the state attorney’s office. The cloud hung over the end of Florida State’s season and became a topic for Heisman voters with the investigation nearing an end as ballots were due.

The long-serving state attorney, Willie Meggs, announced charges would not be filed because of a lack of evidence, and Winston easily became the youngest Heisman winner. He was, however, left off 115 of 900 ballots, and some people will always doubt or at least have questions about Winston’s guilt or innocence.

“That adversity actually brought our team closer together,” Winston said. “It helped us get back on the train tracks and keep chugging some more.”

And he moves on, preparing for an important game, one that could establish Florida State as one of the all-time great teams.

Winston said he talked to Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, previous Heisman winners at Florida State, about how to handle the demands that come with winning that trophy and trying to capture the national title.

If his performance leading up to now is any indication, Winston should handle the pressure just fine.

All eyes are on him. The media’s for now. Then Auburn’s on Monday.

Winston wants to make sure his play, and that of his team’s, is worth watching.

“I know my team is the best team in the country,” Winston said. “I know if we go out there and do what we do that we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

 

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