Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Freshman Brings Star Power to FSU; Prepare for Charismatic QB Jameis Winston to Make Immediate Impact - on and off the Field

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Freshman Brings Star Power to FSU; Prepare for Charismatic QB Jameis Winston to Make Immediate Impact - on and off the Field

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

TALLAHASSEE | Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher can say all the right things about the first open quarterback battle in his four years as the Seminoles coach.

He can be a stand-up guy by giving redshirt sophomore and good soldier Jacob Coker an honest shot. After all, Coker is the only quarterback on the roster who has actually appeared and thrown passes in a college game.

But in a way, the decision on the starting quarterback for the 'Noles opener on Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh was made by a player not even on the roster: Clint Trickett, who left the team after spring practice to transfer to West Virginia.

Trickett played in 17 games for FSU over two seasons and threw for 947 yards, seven TDs with a .623 completion percentage. He made starts against Clemson and Wake Forest when starter and eventual first-round NFL draft pick EJ Manuel was hurt, and nearly pulled out a game against Oklahoma.

When someone of his experience and grit leaves his home of the past six years (Trickett played high school football at Tallahassee North Florida Christian) and leaves the team where his father, Rick, is an assistant coach, something must have happened in spring practice to shake his resolve. The handwriting on the wall was all caps, in bold.

That something was redshirt freshman Jameis (pronounced Jame-ess) Winston, FSU's charismatic, talented quarterback of the future (the near future, as it may turn out) who is about one eyelash away from being the face of the program - and isn't uncomfortable with the notion, despite the experience around him. Indeed, it's the team he may lead that boosts his confidence.

"Look at everyone around me," he said. "We have a better offensive line [than last season], better wide receivers, three or four great backs and great coaches, [quarterback coach Randy], coach Sanders and coach Fisher. There's absolutely no pressure on me. There are so many great players they allow me to be the face of the program. You know how it takes a whole nation to raise one kid? I got this whole team to raise me."

If he's raised right, Winston could become only the third freshman in FSU history to start on opening day, after Chris Rix and Drew Wetherford.

MEDIA LATCHES ON

Because of Fisher's edict on no interviews for true freshmen, few people outside the program and Winston's family knew what kind of personality he had.

Now they know, mainly on the basis of one interview that lasted 21 minutes at FSU Media Day. Dropping one gem of a quote after another in everyone's laps, Winston became an instant media hit.

"Winston's Star Power Taking FSU by Storm," screamed one headline in a South Florida daily.

"Jameis Winston Steals the Show," was another, on an FSU-centric website.

And from another sports website, Deadspin: "Why Jameis Winston will be Your New Favorite College Football Player."

Winston offered glimpses based on brief interviews after Seminole baseball games last season. But that one session two weeks ago put him in the chatty category of former aeNoles great Deion Sanders, who never met a microphone or digital recorder he never liked.

Smiling and sly, Winston held court on football, baseball, Johnny Manziel, media attention, his team, his coaches, his "country" upbringing and his quest to lighten the day of anyone he encounters.

"I love putting smiles on people's faces, when people are down, having a bad day," he said. "The worst thing is a rainy day with no laughs. People laugh on a sunny day. smiling and stuff, but on rainy days people want to be dull. There's no reason for that. I try to make everybody smile and laugh. Every day is going to be a good day at Florida State."

Just in case anyone wonders about the fact that you can't spell "Jameis" without the "me," he does something to show how team-oriented he is. Teammates, media and onlookers alike were startled at FSU's Media Day when Winston came running up to a sweaty group of linemen posing for pictures to offer towels. …

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