WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
A superstar athlete with charm to spare is a rare commodity. Jameis Winston is the kind of man TV producers and advertisers dream about.
By Matthew Poindexter
As the star quarterback at Hueytown High, near Birmingham, Alabama, Jameis Winston couldn’t catch the attention of the coaches at his dream school, the University of Texas. Now, however, the entire college football world stops for a few hours each Saturday to watch him decimate defenses as the freshman quarterback of the Florida State Seminoles.
Jameis Winston is the 6-foot 4-inch, 228-pound, 19-year-old who took college football by storm in the first two months of the season. Winston’s Florida State team is ranked third overall and in the hunt for a national title largely due to its quarterback’s outstanding play. The freshman ranks in the NCAA’s top 10 for almost every passing statistic. And in passer efficiency rating, a comprehensive statistic, Winston is second overall — no other freshman even cracks the top 15. Speaking anonymously, one NFL scout told the Orlando Sentinel that if Winston were available, he would absolutely be the first overall pick at the end of this season. The NFL will just have to wait, though, until Winston becomes draft-eligible next year, when his No. 1 pick position is all but guaranteed.
Jameis Winston shows such promise that he has a legitimate chance of being crowned the best college football player in America.
But Jameis Winston isn’t merely some freak of nature who overpowers opponents. As Trent Dilfer, a 13-year NFL quarterback, recently told the New York Times, “The thing that jumps out is his competitive temperament and his innate ability to learn, know, understand and apply. I call it functional football intelligence. He gets it as quick as anybody I have been around, including NFL guys. He is off the charts./
Nor is Winston simply a football savant. Even before he demolished the University of Pittsburgh to the tune of four touchdowns and 356 yards passing in his college debut, Winston was winning over reporters and fans with his easygoing nature and colorful press conferences. “I could make you feel comfortable in a black church,” he said when reporter Gary Smits asked about how Winston was getting along with his new teammates. When a reporter brought up Johnny Manziel, the talented but controversial Texas A&M quarterback who faced a significant backlash after an impressive freshman year, Winston replied, “If I ever get Manziel disease, I want all of you to smack me in the head with your microphones.”
Off-grid antics are almost expected of young athletes thrust into the spotlight, but Winston seems to be keeping a level head about it all — and that degree of composure in someone so young is extraordinary.
He gets it as quick as anybody I have been around, including NFL guys. He is off the charts.
— Trent Dilfer, NFL quarterback
“Winston’s got a rare natural charm,” ESPN’s Bomani Jones tells OZY. “It’s impossible to quantify or fully describe, but he comports himself in a way one would hope his quarterback would. He’s a magnetic leader and never seems overwhelmed by any moment. That’s part and parcel with the ideal aesthetic of the quarterback, and it’s a big part of why he’s become such a big deal.”
That’s not to say that Winston is perfect. The freshman has benefited from his talented and experienced teammates, and there isn’t anything specific that he does better than everyone else. “His physical stuff is not off the charts — he does not have the strongest arm of quarterbacks I have worked with; he is not the fastest; he is not the most accurate,” Dilfer told the New York Times. At the same time, however, obvious weaknesses are difficult to find — while his decisive leadership and steel nerves are hard to miss.
Jameis Winston shows such promise that he has a legitimate chance of being crowned the best college football player in America. ESPN’s David Hale says Winston is “the charismatic freshman with the big arm and the big smile who in the span of two months has gone from redshirt freshman competing for a starting job to household name and Heisman front-runner.” If he wins, Winston would be only the second freshman Heisman winner since the first award was given in 1935.
With his imposing size and agility, Winston profiles as a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck–type of quarterback in the NFL. If he bulks up and loses a step, he still has the ability to be a Ben Roethlisberger — tough to tackle, regardless of speed.
There are no guarantees in football, just as in life, meaning Winston could get injured, flare out or look less dominant when he’s stacked up against the pros. But for now, Jameis Winston is the one to follow, the total package, the elite athlete with looks, personality and ferocious drive. Simply put, Winston could be the football player that people who don’t watch football want to watch.
- Matthew Poindexter, OZY Author Contact Matthew Poindexter