Coach: Winston showed no stress from investigation

Jameis Winston quickly emerged as one of college football’s

biggest stars because of his brilliant play, while also charming

Florida State fans with his smile and natural charisma.

The 19-year-old redshirt freshman seemed poised and mature

beyond his years, whether he was throwing touchdown passes after

shedding a defensive lineman or answering questions from reporters

about what it took to be the leader of one of the best teams in the

country.

Three weeks ago the story changed. A year-old sexual assault

complaint against him was given by Tallahassee police to the

state’s attorney office to be investigated. For three weeks,

Winston faced the possibility of serious criminal charges. He was

accused of rape by a female Florida State student. His lawyer said

the sex was consensual.

Winston continued to play spectacularly. While he was shielded

from answering direct questions about the investigation, he gave

his routine interviews leading up to and after games. If the

investigation was stressing him out, he wasn’t showing it

publicly.

And according to coach Jimbo Fisher, he wasn’t showing it

privately either.

”He’s been the same guy, and like I said, he believed in the

process, and he believed in himself, and he’s been the same guy,”

Fisher said Friday at a news conference at Bank of America Stadium

for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Duke,

about 24 hours after prosecutors in Florida announced Winston would

not be charged.

”It’s been a remarkable maturity level presented by him to be

able to compartmentalize and handle things he can control and not

that anything was (taken) lightly or he didn’t take it seriously,

but like I say, in our life everybody has issues or something going

on in your life, and the ones that can compartmentalize and

function and handle them when they have to handle them are the ones

that are very successful, and he’s very mature like that,” Fisher

said.

No. 1 Florida State played three games from the time news broke

about the complaint until the time the case was closed. There were

certainly no signs of distraction from the Seminoles, though this

team is so talented that rolling Syracuse, Idaho and Florida by a

combined 176-24 could have been accomplished with less-than-full

attention.

Winston completed 67 percent of his passes in those three games

for 829 yards, with nine touchdown passes and one interception. He

appeared to be the same jovial guy on the sideline, joking with

teammates and interacting with fans after games.

When it was time to answer the at-times awkwardly worded

questions about dealing with ”distractions,” he deftly managed to

swing it back toward talking about the team and the game.

”He took everything extremely seriously, but he also understood

he had a responsibility as a student, as a teammate to handle

himself the way he did, and it’s been remarkable the way he’s done

it,” Fisher said. ”I have seen no signs (of stress), and he and I

talk quite often.”

Fisher said he has seen no change in his team’s mood or demeanor

since the decision not to charge Winston was announced.

”It’s the same football team we were then,” Fisher said.

Winston and Florida State are a victory away from playing in the

BCS national championship game, and are overwhelming favorites

against Duke. The Heisman Trophy is also in Winston’s grasp. Only

some sort monumental meltdown against the Blue Devils is likely to

keep Winston from collecting the bronze statue next week in New

York.

”Because when it’s time to play football, when it’s time to go

to school, he compartmentalizes and handles his responsibilities,”

Fisher said.

”I think he understands that he had a responsibility to his

team, that they worked very hard, and that was his responsibility

to be their quarterback and be their leader, and he handled his

individual situation on his own time, his own merits, and I think

he did a great job of understanding and compartmentalizing.”

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP