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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Winston content to be in spotlight

GREENSBORO, N.C.—Jameis Winston embraced the spectacle before it even began.

As he approached his seat in front of a throng of reporters, at least 50 strong, Winston said in a booming voice, “Before I say anything, how does it feel to have an ACC team come in here with a national championship? Can we give the ACC a round of applause?

“We took it away from the SEC, y’all. It’s a blessing.”

Winston, Florida State’s sophomore starting quarterback, was ready for the spotlight. He drew the biggest crowd of reporters by far at the ACC Kickoff on Sunday at Grandover Resort. It might have been the biggest gathering this event has ever seen.

Fifteen minutes before he entered the room, rows of seats were filled in front of his table. Many more gathered around when Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to the BCS national championship last season, arrived.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Winston had an enthralled audience, and he loved every second of it.

“I’m definitely enjoying this. It gives me a chance to express my feelings, and it gives people a chance to see who I really am,” Winston said.

Winston had the cheery disposition of a man whose reputation wasn’t sullied by two controversies in the last year—a rape investigation that drew no charges and a citation for stealing crab legs from a grocery story. If only that were the case.

That the quarterback even subjected himself to the media day zoo was surprising and even commendable in a way, considering FSU has a slew of standout offensive players who could have represented the program.

But Winston came, and showed no ill effects of his controversy-filled year. It’s clear that he hasn’t been beaten down by the negative publicity that has followed him.

“It’s a blessing to be a carefree, loving person, and it just comes from my parents raising me right,” Winston said. “What I grew up around, you really couldn’t be in your feelings all the time, you couldn’t be uptight because people would try to hurt your feelings, and that’s where I get my smile and why I’m always relaxed. Because you can’t get too defensive about things.”

Winston says he is fine with the spotlight on him, as long as it frees his teammates up from experiencing the same kind of scrutiny.

That’s a noble thing, FSU cornerback P.J. Williams said.

“He feels like he’s taking pressure off us, and that’s a good thing,” said Williams, an All-American candidate. “It’s just good having a team player like that and a good leader who’s going to take over for us.”

Winston, who passed for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns last season, showed no nerves despite facing a maelstrom of questions from reporters.

Of course, he didn’t comment much about his past transgressions, only saying that he learned from it and has become a better person.

“It wasn’t difficult at all, because you learn from your mistakes in this world, and I learned from my mistakes,” he said. “I fixed it, and I moved on into preparing for this season.”

The Seminoles have high expectations this season after going 14–0 with an ACC championship victory over Duke and a national championship win over Auburn.

Winston said he and his teammates are up to the challenge of trying to join Alabama as the only teams to win back to back BCS championships since 2000.

“We’re starting over. Clean slate,” Winston said. “We’re not worried about defending the national championship. We’re worried about getting another one, and that’s the most important part, going out there, keeping that chip on our shoulder, having the same purpose, same mentality and getting what we want.”


Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442