TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s squinting has everyone staring at the redshirt freshman.
It’s so noticeable, the Heisman trophy candidate has been dubbed “Jameis Squintston.”
Cameras caught Winston regularly straining to see the play-call from coaches on the sidelines during the third-ranked Seminoles’ win against Miami. He wears contacts off the field but said Wednesday that it’s uncomfortable to wear them when playing.
Winston, who is near-sighted, laughed about the whole thing and said it was just a coincidence that he went in for a refill the same week his vision became a national story.
“I squint a lot. It looks like I’m squinting now. I just do that. It’s a habit,” Winston said Wednesday while not wearing his contacts to his weekly press conference. “I asked them earlier today when I was in the training room, `Pick something out, I’ll let you know that I can see. Just pick anything out in the back of the room.’
“Even y’all can do it. Pick something out in the back that y’all want me to read and will read it for you.”
There were plenty of chuckles, but no one took Winston up on the offer.
Still, one expert believes Winston could be even better he wore his contacts during the game.
Steven A. Hitzeman, a clinical associate professor at Indiana’s School of Optometry, said there is a direct correlation between vision and athletic performance.
“Visual acuity is a strong predictor of performance,” said Steven A. Hitzeman, a clinical associate professor at Indiana’s School of Optometry. “Visual performance and athletic performance. The better you see, the better you perform.
“The better the acuity the quicker you respond to visual stimuli. The quicker you respond to visual stimuli, the better decisions you’re going to make, the quicker decisions you’re going to make and the better you’re going to play.”
Cameras showed several instances of Winston squinting to see the sideline when coaches were signaling plays to the quarterback during the 41-14 win against Miami. He would then turn and run the offense, seemingly, without issue.
Coach Jimbo Fisher said the lights of the stadium played a factor in the squinting, but he isn’t concerned at all.
“He has contacts and doesn’t like wearing them, but it’s a very minimal prescription,” Fisher said. “At night, he has a hard time, sometimes, with the lights and where those lights are. He sees. He’s fine. That’s the way he looks over there.
“It’s never a factor. It’s never been a problem, just because he squints. He still seems to see. Think of the way he would play if he could see.”
Fisher was joking with that last line, but Hitzeman believes that’s a legitimate question.
The Indiana professor does visual screening at the junior Olympics and outfits most of the Hoosier athletes with their corrective lenses. He recommends any athlete who needs contacts or glasses on a regular basis to wear them during athletics.
“I can tell who the better players are by just looking at their visuals — their visual-reaction time, their depth perception,” Hitzeman said. “His depth perception is going to be modified. His visual-reaction time is going to be modified. All those things add up to increased performance the better he can see.
“It’s not just seeing from the quarterback to the line of scrimmage. He has to be able to react peripherally, he has to be able to look at depth, he has to be picking up sharp details so he knows who’s where and who’s not where.”
Winston has averaged 312.8 yards passing per game and thrown 24 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 70.3 completion percentage. His 201.12 quarterback efficiency ranks No. 2 in the FBS. There are only a handful players in the entire country that are in that realm. Only six others have a better completion percentage.
Florida State plays Wake Forest on Saturday and Hitzeman said, “If I was his optometrist, if I was his coach, if I was his parent I would make sure he’s wearing correction when he plays. His performance should be better with contacts than without. … I would think that he would see much better and play much better wearing visual correction.
“And if he wears them in baseball, there’s no reason he shouldn’t wear them in football.”