Winston wins Heisman, now he’ll have to live up to it
Jameis Winston bound onto the stage at the Best Buy Theater in the heart
of Times Square, a group of 24 past Heisman Trophy winners behind him.
The newest member of the fraternity shook hands with the likes of Johnny
Lattner, Paul Hornung and Archie Griffin, flashing a broad smile as he
took the podium.
The span of a career, at Florida
State and beyond, will decide how the Florida State quarterback
shoulders the weight of being a Heisman winner. But we’ve already seen
him deal with a far more difficult situation on the path to winning
“I trusted in the process that evaluated facts
and truth would deliver positive outcomes,” Winston said in a speech in
which that trust was the central subject.
redshirt freshman won was of no surprise, amid a trophy chase that saw
candidates fall in droves and another, Auburn’s Tre Mason, who would
join the race too late to make a serious challenge. Winston was, for all
intents and purposes, the only logical option.
led the Seminoles to a spot in the BCS title game opposite Auburn,
boasts an FBS-best 190.1 pass efficiency rating while throwing for 3,820
yards and 38 touchdowns, both NCAA freshman
All that was in doubt was the margin of
victory for the player who is now the youngest winner in history at 19
years, 342 days, and there any hang-ups played out in tangible
Winston won by 1,501 points over Alabama QB
AJ McCarron (704), while Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch was third
(558), Boston College running back Andre Williams fourth (470), last
year’s winner, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel fifth (421) and Mason
It was a sizable win, with Winston
receiving 79.2 percent of the maximum possible points Winston received
ranking seventh all time, just below O.J. Simpson’s 80.6 percent in
Considering Winston was such an overwhelming
favorite it’s surprising he didn’t win by a wider margin, though that
surely had its root in voters not willing to get behind him amid legal
The investigation Winston found himself in,
accused of sexually assaulting a former Florida State student last
December, ended with him not being charged. The timing of the State
Attorney’s press conference to say as much came five days before Heisman
ballots were due, paving the way for Winston to win without controversy
Still, there were obviously voters who
didn’t feel they could vote for him with a clear conscience as he failed
to appear on 115 of the 928 ballots.
disclosure, Winston earned this writer’s vote, with Mason second and
Even after he
had been cleared, the probe became part of Winston’s narrative,
following him to New York City while he was taking part in Friday’s
activities with the other six finalists.
miles from Manhattan, attorney Patricia Carroll, the lawyer for
Winston’s accuser held a 90-minute press conference. She blasted the
investigation and the Tallahassee Police Department’s handling of the
case and the treatment of her client.
“The bulk of
the investigation was into the rape victim,” Carroll said. “I’m looking
at an investigation of a rape victim, not a rape suspect.”
Winston, during his pre-Heisman availability Friday,
told reporters “I knew I could respect the process and eventually be
The case is closed, and now a BCS title
game date with Auburn awaits, as do a whole new set of expectations on
and off the field.
Of that, Manziel can
The Aggies QB, in a testament to just how
difficult it is to one-up yourself, threw for more yards and this season
(3,732 and 33, respectively) than he did through his bowl game last
year (3,706 and 26) — and he finished fifth. That ties Tim Tebow in
2009 for the lowest finish of any former winner who was invited to the
It was fitting that college football’s fist
star of the social media age was on hand for the crowning of the next
one, coming up on stage after Winston’s speech and giving him a hug
before Manziel joined the rest of the past winners.
The Seminoles QB will be the ninth Heisman winner to
return to the following season, but only one of them ever dealt with
their ever move being news, their every tweet the foundation for a news
cycle and tat was Manziel. He’s the only one who fully grasps what
awaits Winston. But if anything positive came out of the investigation,
it’s that there’s no question that Winston can remain poised on the
field with chaos swirling off it.
It was almost
prophetic this summer when Winston, who had yet to attempt a pass in
college, was asked whether he could handle the spotlight. “If I ever get
Manziel disease, I want all of you to smack me in the head with your
microphones,” he told reporters.
Reminded of that
comment after the Seminoles’ 51-14 rout of then-No. 3 Clemson on Oct.
19, a performance that thrust him to the top of the Heisman
conversation, Winston only laughed.
isn’t Johnny Football. Like Manziel he dealt with a scandal and Winston
followed him as the award’s only redshirt freshmen winners. But while
Manziel claimed the Heisman and afterward became TMZ fodder, saying at
July’s SEC Media Days “I’m still going to life live to the fullest,”
Winston’s case is very different.
controversy, Winston won’t be afforded the same leash Manziel had. He
earned the Heisman on the field; now, he’ll need to show he’s ready to
live up to the trophy off it.