Heisman dream in reach for FSU QB Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston envisioned winning the Heisman Trophy well before

he signed with Florida State.

He’ll find out whether his dream becomes a reality on Saturday

night. The redshirt freshman quarterback is one of six finalists up

for the most prestigious individual award in college football.

Winston and his high school coach Matt Scott were in Tuscaloosa

on a recruiting trip at Alabama when he took a picture with Mark

Ingram’s 2009 trophy. He wanted to be the first at Alabama to win

the award, at the time.

”When Ingram won it I was just like, `Well, he won it. So, I’ve

got to be the next person from Alabama to win it,” said Winston,

who pointed out that Ingram is actually from Michigan.

”Football is so important to Alabama, so any time you have a

national achievement it means a lot to your state and your

family,” Winston said. ”You always dream. You’ve got to dream big

because if you don’t dream big, there’s no use to dream at

all.”

He’ll be joined in New York by Texas A&M’s reigning Heisman

winner Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Boston College’s

Andre Williams, Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch and Auburn’s Tre

Mason.

Winston set Atlantic Coast Conference freshman records for the

most yards passing (3,820) and touchdown passes (38) while leading

the No. 1-ranked Seminoles to a 13-0 record and berth in the BCS

championship game.

Florida State and Winston continued to excel despite a sexual

assault investigation that became public last month. The State

Attorney’s Office announced that it would not press charges against

Winston last week. However, Winston’s legal problems may not be

over. The accuser, her lawyer and family have scheduled a press

conference Friday.

There is no doubt about Winston’s talent. He is already being

talked about as a potential franchise quarterback in the NFL, even

though he can’t be drafted until 2015.

”The one thing that you don’t know about a lot of players is

how well, how quickly they’re able to read defenses,” said Gil

Brandt, NFL draft analyst. ”Once you get into the NFL, reading

defenses is paramount. Are you going to be able to do it as quickly

as you have at the college level?”

Brandt helped build the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys as

vice president of player personnel from 1960-89. He said Winston

has steadily improved and his accuracy is one of his most valuable

traits. His 67.9 completion percentage is tied for 10th best in the

country. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has lauded Winston’s

ability to take what the defense gives and throw to the open

receiver.

Brandt said the way Winston dealt with the accusation and the

subsequent media coverage is a positive.

”That speaks well from the standpoint of concentration,”

Brandt said. ”And I think the most important thing for success to

a football player is concentration.”

As well as Winston has played, there’s room to improve. Brandt

pointed out mechanics of his throwing motion and the movement of

his hips. Brandt wants to see incremental improvements across the

board during Winston’s sophomore season – completion percentage,

the way he adjust plays at the line of scrimmage, game

management.

Scott said he and Winston’s family purposely tried to prepare

him for celebrity in high school by exposing him to media and

events across the country. None of that compared to this season and

the coverage of the investigation. That attention will only

increase if Winston wins the Heisman. He’s likely to be in the

running again in 2014.

”It was different to go from such a slow, small type of small

town College Station status where everybody knows you and people

run into you, then to take that to a national level where you walk

around Times Square and people are running into you and noticing

you,” said Manziel, who endured his share of controversy after

winning the award in 2012. ”Just how big things boomed and spread

out across the entire country, world, everything after that was

nothing like I expected.”

Seven years ago Winston was first introduced to the Heisman

through the NCAA Football `06 video game. He was 13 years old,

created himself on the game and won the award. Winston could match

his digital persona Saturday.

”He’s definitely the truth,” said 1993 Heisman winner Charlie

Ward, who regularly texts Winston. ”He’s the real deal. His

attitude toward getting better and not settling for his last

accomplishments is great.

”It was impressive to see him come out and do the things that

he’s been able to do as a younger guy.”