Winston, FSU take spotlight
The Seminoles prepare for life without the controversial QB.
LOS ANGELES - Derrick Mitchell recalls many nights leaving Florida State's practice facility to go home while Jameis Winston was still upstairs watching game film. Mitchell would later go out for food, and while crossing the overpass on Stadium Drive, he would look down and still see Winston's gold sedan parked outside Doak Campbell Stadium.
"He definitely puts the time in," Mitchell said of Winston, who is described by teammates as a film junkie. "It's just Jameis. He's not complacent with all the accolades he's got, he wants to be the best."
Winston's car is an omnipresent figure in FSU's parking lot, a symbol of the side most do not see of the Heisman Trophy winner. The image of Winston's ride in Tallahassee, however, may be a distant memory within the next month.
Winston, who will guide No. 3 Florida State (13-0) against No. 2 Oregon (12-1) in the Rose Bowl on Thursday, is considered a top prospect for the 2015 NFL draft. While Winston has not given an indication as to whether he will declare for the draft, most analysts project him to leave for the pros.
Winston himself has declined to divulge much about his plans, saying that he's focused on Oregon and that "it's about now." Coach Jimbo Fisher told an ESPN radio program earlier this month that "it would not shock me either way" when asked whether he expected Winston to leave early for the NFL.
"See, everybody assumes you go, but Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning stayed. It's not just being a top-two pick," Fisher said. "It's about what you want out of life, to me. Is it to get to the NFL and be a top pick or be at the Hall of Fame, or to be a college graduate? We all assume that money drives everything, and it's a very important factor, but at the same time, other people have a lot of value on things that we may not always see.
"I think he's a lot deeper of a person than people give him credit for."
Fisher said he has begun talking to Winston and other underclassmen about what the next move is, but there has been no clear indication as to what Winston will do, at least not publicly.
During his two seasons with FSU, Winston has become a polarizing figure. First, it was for his play on the field and his charismatic personality. But he turned into a pariah in the eyes of many after he was accused of raping a former Florida State student in December 2012. He has faced no criminal charges and a judge recently ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Winston of violating the student code of conduct.
Love him or hate him, seemingly everyone paying attention to college football has a strong opinion about Winston.
As a result, Winston and FSU have been placed under the microscope by several national media outlets.
"Those things never bother me," Winston said. "Obviously I know that I'm under a microscope, so that's different, and that's why I say in Tallahassee, I've just got to sit in because people will tweet about you for walking down the street backwards. You've just got to chill."
Winston was suspended for the Seminoles' key game against Clemson for shouting a lewd comment on campus. The Seminoles won in overtime while Winston watched from the sideline.
"We let him know there are a lot of cameras on him and stuff all the time," FSU offensive lineman Bobby Hart said. "Every time he's around people, they have their phones out. You just talk to him, and I think he's done a great job of taking that in."
Florida State quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Randy Sanders calls Winston a "blessing" to coach and said there are concepts and assignments the staff asks Winston to do that it would never dream of asking of another player.
So on the field, FSU will undoubtedly have to adjust its philosophy. Whether that process begins in a couple of months or a couple of years remains to be seen.