TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Jameis Winston quietly maintained his innocence in the sexual assault allegations.
Even before the matter was made public on Nov. 13, the Florida State quarterback said he “never lost faith in the truth.” And on Thursday, nearly a year after the original police report from Dec. 7, 2012, Winston was cleared by State Attorney Willie Meggs. No charges will be filed, and Meggs considers the case closed.
“It’s been difficult to stay silent through this process, but I never lost faith in the truth and in who I am,” Winston said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I’m very relieved I’ll be able to continue my education at Florida State and I’m excited I can now get back to helping our team achieve its goals.”
Winston was not allowed to speak to the media on Thursday. He practiced in the afternoon, just hours after Meggs made his announcement. No. 1 Florida State (12-0) is preparing for the ACC championship game against No. 20 Duke (10-2) on Saturday, and the Seminoles are just a win away from a spot in the BCS championship game.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Winston has been calm and level-headed during the legal process. Fisher said the 19-year-old redshirt freshman has a maturity that is beyond his age.
“I think he’s very mature,” Fisher said after Thursday’s practice. “I think he has the ability, I think he has the strength in his beliefs and what he does. He’s very mature that way. Lot of grown ups can’t do that.
“He can prioritize and compartmentalize when he has to do certain things. It goes back to control what you can control at that present time. And I think he’s done a very good job of that.”
Winston has appeared composed both on the field and in his interviews with the media, both on Wednesday afternoons and following games. Reporters have been directed by Florida State officials not to ask questions regarding his investigation, but Winston has said that he has found strength from family and teammates. And his teammates have also helped him keep his focus while he’s on the field.
A Heisman Trophy contender, Winston has thrown for 3,490 yards (tops in the ACC) and 35 touchdowns (the best in a single season in Florida State history). He has two more games to add to those totals, beginning Saturday against Duke.
Winston has been named to the All-ACC first team and the ACC player of the year, the first of what could be many honors for him in the next few weeks. He is a finalist for the Maxwell, O’Brien and Manning awards. And on Monday he could be named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Now that he’s cleared of any pending legal charges, Winston could become the second freshman to win the Heisman (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel won it last year). Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, said he hopes that the allegations don’t affect Heisman voters.
“I hope the voters realize he has never been charged,” Jansen said. “… He was falsely accused.”
Chris Huston of Heismanpundit.com wrote on Thursday night that he thinks most voters will put Winston first on their ballots.
“While I doubt his final margin of victory will be among the top 10 landslides in Heisman history, I do believe Winston will win quite comfortably,” Huston wrote.