Yet on Saturday night, in a theater in New York City, it was Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston who held aloft the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the country. And no one — not even the biggest Jaboo fan around — saw that coming, especially not so early in his career.
There is no denying that Winston is the best player in the country this year. He came out of nowhere to lead a Seminole team that few expected to reach the final BCS title game.
So for now, Jameis Winston’s potential seems to lie in football, though baseball certainly isn’t out of the picture. There stands a good chance that he might go the route of Bo Jackson, who grew up just miles away in McCalla, and try both sports on the pro level.
More concerning is Winston’s personal life. I’ve alluded to his temper, but the bigger issue is the one that nearly derailed his Heisman hopes — the investigation into charges that he sexually assaulted a woman in Tallahassee. Police cleared him of the accusations, saying there was not enough evidence to file charges, though the accuser’s attorney is still making noise about a civil suit.
Even after Winston was cleared, the lingering worries about his personal conduct were enough for 115 of the 900 Heisman voters to omit him entirely from their three selections. Given his performance on the field, his off-field issues can be the only legitimate reason to leave Winston off a ballot.
There’s not a doubt in my mind that Jameis Winston has the talent to be one of the great superstars of our time, barring a major injury. But that lingering question about his personality and conduct will continue to haunt him, unless he makes a very public effort to keep his nose clean.
I hope very much for his sake that Jameis Winston does exactly that.