As we get ready to put a bow on the 2014 NFL season, talk will soon turn to the future and the 2015 NFL Draft. This is already the focus of everyone within the 30 organisations that are not involved in the Super Bowl. And for those teams in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 1st pick overall pick, one man will be getting analysed, scrutinized and dissected, more than most, to find out if he is the man to lead their organisation to the football promise land.
By Stephen Rhoden Jr – Lead NFL & CFB Writer – @SRhodenJr
For those of you who don’t know about Winston hopefully these words will help give you an insight into the complex character and hugely polarizing figure that he has become over the course of his two years playing, and dominating, in Tallahassee. Winston has had a whirlwind run whilst rapidly becoming a national hate figure for the fans of college football or at least those fans that don’t follow his Seminoles. However there are two different sides to Winston that need to be looked at to better understand why nobody likes him. The one we see on Saturday, tearing up our TVs with poise and rationality that has coaches grinning and rival fans green with envious hate. And the other side we read and hear about. The off-field stupidity, theft and serious criminal offences – all acts that have teams waving red flags frantically whilst fans just deride and despise such ridiculous headlines.
It’s only right we should look at the athlete and QB machine that we see every Saturday when Winston crosses the white line. He came out of high school as a much-vaunted four-star recruit and a kid who excelled in two sports – football and baseball. Winston chose to take his talents to Florida State University in Tallahassee, reportedly because they would allow him to play both sports, much to the derision of his hometown state Alabama and their Crimson Tide juggernaut. When he arrived on campus in 2012 Winston took a redshirt year, thus meaning he could be involved in all football-related activates without having to suit up on Saturday in order to not use up a year of his athletic eligibility. For the first season Winston sat behind then Senior and current Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel and waited.
The old cliché rings true when it comes to Winston: Good things come to those who wait.
Winston burst on the scene with an outlandish performance in his first outing against Pitt in 2013. He led his team to a 41-13 victory and he did so with some real style. He finishing the game with a passing stat line of 25/27 for 356 yards 4 TDs and 0 INTS. A more polished debut display you will rarely see. So it was from this point on that the Jameis hype and hate machine kicked into overdrive. Winston led his team to a national championship victory, whilst remaining undefeated, taking out some powerhouse programmes along the way. This was combined with his outstanding on-field performance bringing him one of the most heralded awards in college sports, the Heisman Trophy. It was only the second time in the history of the award that it had been given to a freshman QB.
Jameis had become a darling story for the writers and talking heads but for the fans of those who he had confidently trampled over, he was hated. But what made it worse was that he didn’t care. Winston embraced this. Not at any stage did the booing of the crowd or when his team wrestled against the jaws of defeat did Winston look even remotely troubled. Cool and composed he shot down the dreams of all who ventured in his way. It was precisely this cavalier attitude and overwhelming talent that started the national dislike. Let’s be honest, as fans we hate most great sport stars who aren’t affiliated with our team. Furthermore in the world of College Football there is no time for such trivial things as appreciation of talent. But for fans, where the passion burns strongest, Winston and his ludicrous talent is to be hated.
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Winston has followed up his debut season with another year to remember – on the field anyway. Despite losing some massive weapons from the championship roster, such as rookie Carolina Panthers touchdown machine Kelvin Benjamin, Winston managed to guide FSU to almost another perfect regular season. He lost his first and only game in the championship playoff against Oregon 20 – 59. But even in defeat Winston’s ability shone through. He looked poised, precise and always dangerous while running a Sunday-style offence. There might be a lot for the fans to hate about the way he oozes quality on the field. But NFL scouts and coaches will purr over what they see on tape. Sadly for Winston, it isn’t all about what you see on tape.
The other side of Famous Jameis is what could have the biggest bearing on his appeal when Draft time rolls around. This is the part of his character which brings up the real passionate hatred from some quarters.
For every great Winston moment, there has been an equally undignified and infamous incident ranging from pure juvenile stupidity to the very serious and potentially life changing. The sort of stuff that makes you wonder if Winston is taking his god-given talents on the field for granted. It will make NFL scouts, coaches and general managers wonder if he’s really able to lead men at the top level.
The first time Winston was thrust into the public eye for the wrong reasons came back in 2012 when the quarterback was in his redshirt year. He, along with a fellow teammate, was questioned by police for alleged involvement in a BB gun fight at an apartment, which result in the damage of property. But he was just 19 – and we’ve all done stupid things at that age too, right?
The problem is Winston’s misdemeanours didn’t stop there.
Since, he has been reprimanded on two separate occasions for shoplifting. The first a more minor act of ego and disobedience in a Burger King that got him in bother and the second a more damaging act of stealing crab legs from a well-known grocery store in Tallahassee. This saw Winston punished by the school – though some would argue missing some game-time is not much punishment for someone who has just committed theft. Winston didn’t deny the accusations, rather pleaded that it was lapse in concentration. A brain fart, in which he forgot you have to pay for things if you want to walk out of a shop with them. It’s easy done. I’m sure we’ve all walk into Tesco, grabbed a sandwich and left. Only for the realisation to hit us on the walk home that you had somehow forgot to pay. Good one, Jameis. Now even more people hate you.
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But the list doesn’t end there, Winston further showed his immaturity in 2014 when he reportedly stood atop a lunch table in a busy spot on Campus for all to see and pointed at a young women walking by and yelled as loud as he could: “F—K HER RIGHT IN THE PUSSY”. What more can I say? A young man, a leader of the team, a nationally recognized figure who represents the college of FSU every Saturday and here he is screaming obscenities at random women as she walks by. Now I know boys will be boys and all that usual garbage, but when you are privileged to have the position and opportunity that Winston has, to act like this and conduct yourself in a disgusting manner only breeds hate from those who hold no loyalty to you.
Yet none of these are the most serious issues involving Winston in his memorable collegiate career. In November 2013 allegations of sexual assault against the player dating back to 2012 were made. At the time the complaint was dropped with no files being brought against Winston. But when the State Attorney announced they would launch a major investigation into the incident that November, college football became the Winston show. That soon turned into a circus. Then a hate campaign. And eventually USA debated whether the Heisman Trophy winner should be awarded to a player facing rape allegations.
But no charges were filed. Some claim a bungled police investigation was the reason for that. Others believe the victim had been pressurised by FSU to drop her charges. Neither have been proven.
Yet the severity of the accusations continues to mar Winston and his credibility as a person more than as a player. There’s no doubting his ability, but his character? That represents the big off-season question for many NFL teams.