We all have been waiting for three days to hear Florida State quarterback James Winston speak at the NFL Combine. That moment came shortly before 2 eastern. But before Winston could field any questions he had a statement of his own.
"First off, before we start anything, I know I made mistakes and that I have a past,” Winston said. “But right now it’s about moving forward and earning the trust of all 32 teams out there. By saying that I am a competitor and I know what I am capable of doing and I will be throwing tomorrow at the combine."
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Winston will be the most scrutinized prospect in this draft. He has had numerous off-the-field issues while playing college football in Tallahassee, hence the reason for his opening statement. Still, the media here in Indianapolis grilled him regarding his past and how he was going to prove his worthiness to the NFL. For Winston, he just wants a fresh start and clean state.
”My actions. I have to do everything by my actions,” Winston said. “It’s not time to explain what I am going to do when I get to a city and a team. I plan on getting involved in the community, creating a positive image and put everything else behind me.”
His two playing seasons in Tallahassee were great ones on the field. He led Florida State to a national title in 2013 and a playoff berth this past season. He won the Heisman Trophy as a red-shirt freshman and lost only one game—his last—as the Seminole starting quarterback.
Still, Winston knows his image is tarnished because of his off-the-field issues. Whether he’s starting to grow up or this was all just part of his maturing process, Winston realizes now he has hurt many people along the way, particularly young people that look up to him. On the podium facing the NFL media Winston showed remorse and commented about what he wants to become away from the game.
”One thing that’s helped me realize my mistakes is to get around kids,” Winston said. “I recently read at an elementary school in Tallahassee. When I see kids look at me I feel bad at myself. It’s hard thing to be real about yourself. It’s hard to let someone down. I am a family person. When I look in their eyes and say ‘Dang that little kid saw something on TV he can say whatever about me’.
”I have a 7-year-old brother at home that’s looking up to me every single day. I can’t disappoint that little man. That’s my little brother. I am his inspiration. In a way he’s living through me. When I went home he was looking at my high school video and he said ‘Jaybo that’s me’. It was me on the film. I have so many people to inspire and kids are looking up at me, not only as a quarterback but as a person. I want to be that role model.”
Winston made a strong point that he wants to be the face of a franchise. He said it numerous times during his 12 minutes on the podium. He also realizes that with this distinction comes a real responsibility.
”What I tell them [NFL coaches] is that I have to earn their trust,” Winston said. “I can’t talk about the situations in the past. I can prove to you and watch me grow and be the face of your franchise.”
Winston knows that the NFL Combine is just the first step of many and he’s going to take each seriously from today and through his time in Indianapolis.
”I believe that everything that happens here is very important,” Winston said. “I don’t look at any part as more important. This is our first job interview. Of course this is about the first impression because first impressions last a long time. I want to be about what I am saying. I am young man but I am going to the next level and taking a grown man’s position. That’s important to me. Football is my passion. I have been doing this since I was young. I know the respect that I have to take when I am the face of someone’s franchise.”
To muddy the Winston’s waters even more were reports today that it was discovered that there was a weakness in his throwing shoulder. He immediately shot those down.
” I had a MRI [yesterday] like everyone else,” Winston said. “I have been playing football since I was four years old. My shoulder is fine. I have the same shoulder that I have had since past two years I was at FSU.”
For Winston, he’s entering uncharted territory. First, he’s going to be put under the microscope for all the reasons cited above. But on the flip side and for the first time in his life, Winston’s a full time quarterback.
”Right now my focus is on football. I am a quarterback,” Winston said. “This is actually the first time I have ever had an off-season on just working on being a quarterback. I have [always] been playing baseball. I was a pitcher. This is the first time I have had an off-season and I love it. I love just putting everything into football. I am a quarterback. This is what I do.”
And he does it well. Winston’s game is well suited for Sunday football. The talk since the season ended would who would be selected first, he or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Winston doesn’t see it as him versus the Heisman Trophy winning Duck quarterback.
”This is not a competition between me and Mariota,” Winston said. “Next year I am out there to win games and be the face of a franchise. This is not a competition between me and Mariota. I plan on winning a Super Bowl next year. It’s Jameis vs Peyton Manning. It’s Jameis vs Tom Brady. I want to be viewed like that. After this combine stuff you are not going to hear about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. I want my name relevant for the next 15 to 20 years.”
Unfortunately, Winston is wrong there because for the next ten weeks leading up to the NFL Draft (April 30) all the talk will be about Winston and Mariota, especially considering Tampa Bay has the first pick and they desperately need a quarterback.
” It’s important to me [to be first pick],” Winston said. “I know how hard I worked. It would be a privilege to get accepted by the Glazer family [team owner] in Tampa. I know I have to gain their trust and a lot of people’s trust. This is my opportunity and I have to take advantage of this. This is what I dreamed of. I dream of the Hall of Fame. I dream of being the face of a franchise.”
Note - Below are two videos of the Winston press conference. This first he talks about earning the trust of the NFL. The second talks about the opportunity of playing in Tampa.
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