We have come a long way. As a society we have become the most judgmental on the planet. A lot of the blame is because of social media. I get it. To not be cautious about a player’s character is not doing your proper research. But you know what else isn’t? Not looking at the other side of the fence.
For decades, teams have taken chances on drafting players with concerns coming out of college. Look at the Bucs drafting Warren Sapp and Aqib Talib. Even Bo Jackson, who had a troubling upbringing, was drafted first overall by the Bucs in 1986 before deciding to leave Tampa Bay at the altar.
All of those three were (and are) ball players. Jackson was a great dual-sport athlete, Sapp is in the Hall of Fame, and Talib is consistently in many discussions as a top cornerback in the league.
But as time passes, we feel the need to be politically correct. Take the safer route on sensitive topics. Of course no one is condoning the actions of wrongdoings by any athlete or person. The problem here is missing out on talent because of various media reports. Yes, I am referring to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
Much like many college students, Winston has displayed a lot of immaturity. He has even been in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people. Something you and I have put ourselves in.
Yes I know, not like Winston.
We elect to judge his every move based on how the reports decide to paint him to the public. After his alleged rape case, he most certainly deserves to have every eye close to him. He makes the news. He draws attention. From the alleged rape case, to the crab legs, to the viral vulgarity he yelled out among students one afternoon, Winston is viewed as a player with strikes no general manager or franchise should take a chance on. That theory based off what we have learned -- through media reports.
We are all guilty of not acknowledging facts. Facts like run-arounds Winston’s accuser has given authorities and the false information she provided that damaged the investigation. Throw in there as well how other students yelled out the vulgarity along with Winston, in which many found comical as part of “college life.”
But no. Not for Winston. He is a college athlete looking to make a leap to the professional level so he is held on a much higher standard than most. I agree with that. But I disagree with the narrative the follows him concerning his character.
Not once do major outlets report his charitable work with kids. Not once do major outlets report his academic achievements. That won’t draw viewers or readers.
Teams take many things into account before deciding if to draft a player. Let’s take the St. Louis Rams organization for example. Janoris Jenkins put himself in very bad situations in college. A highly touted cornerback for the University of Florida would eventually transfer to the University of North Alabama his senior year. The move was brought on after run-ins with the law throughout his college career. But that didn’t stop the Rams from drafting him 39th overall in the 2012 draft.
Rams’ general manager Les Snead, who worked as a scout for the NFL for 15 years before being named Director of Player Personnel for the Atlanta Falcons from 2009 - 2011, spoke to ESPN.com this past April about what he would consider red flags on not drafting a player. Notice how almost everything he notes as potential deterrents relate to football first:
“Someone who is a bad teammate. Someone who consistently underachieves or rarely overachieves. Someone who isn't passionate about the game. Someone who is not willing to work on the mental part of the game. Someone with a consistent history of getting in trouble with the law that usually dates back to high school. Someone who shows no remorse.”
Jenkins has stayed out of trouble since being drafted.
My understanding from scouts around the league, Winston’s problems stem from immaturity. Something almost all 20-year olds around the world go through and eventually get rid of. Even though they admittedly said that will always be brought up in team meetings, what gets emphasized is his passion for the game and position, his demeanor and leadership in the locker room and on the field, and his mental makeup when it comes to football. Sound familiar?
Character concerns can be pinned on so many athletes in any sport. Unfortunately, those concerns hang over the head of Winston because the public chooses to focus on what’s been put out there.
Talent should outweigh any reported issue especially once teams conclude their research. Once that is settled, Winston could make a team very fortunate to have him and those that pass him regret their decision.
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