Jameis Winston is a tale of two characters. There’s the incredible athlete with an uncanny knack for on-the-field heroics, and there’s the childish, irresponsible goofball that leaves us all shaking our heads in quiet disbelief. As much as he is revered for leading our football program to its first national championship win in fourteen years, it’s getting harder and harder to defend his character.
Winston’s latest blunder arrived just in time to give FSU fans several not so small heart attacks as the Noles nearly lost to ACC rival Clemson. He was suspended for standing on a table in the student union and shouting you-know-what. As per usual, plenty of controversy bubbled up from the depths of media outlets and outcries from FSU fans. Some say give him a break, others say he’s got to learn his lesson.
Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, cohosts of the popular ESPN segment, “Pardon The Interruption,” even went so far as to imply that Winston suffers from some sort of undiagnosed mental issue. That’s probably a bit of a stretch on their part, an insensitive one at that, but at this point there are probably plenty of people out there that might agree with them.
He is constantly baffling us with terrible decisions. It seems that every time Jameis Winston supporters take that final look over their shoulder, suck in a deep breath and let it out in a sigh of relief, thinking his latest boneheaded move has blown over, he goes and does something even dumber. After a summer wrought by headlines of stolen crab legs and stolen soda, pellet gun fights and, oh yeah, the aftermath of a season-long rape accusation, the last thing FSU needed was for Jameis’s name to circulate the media for something other than football.
And yet, here we are, still debating if his on-the-field talent is worth the off-the-field embarrassment. We all wish we could sit down and have a little pep talk with Jameis, to set him straight and tell him to keep quiet between Saturdays, to just think twice about certain things. We all have those necessary words of wisdom in us because we’re tired of holding our breath when we see his name in a headline, knowing there’s a fifty-fifty chance it’s not for a good reason.
The bottom line is: there are no more excuses for Jameis Winston. To everyone defending him by saying he’s just a 20 year-old kid who’s trying to have fun, you’re wrong. The average 20 year-old has enough sense not to yell out offensive internet memes in the busiest part of campus, regardless of the circumstances. It’s high time he starts acting his age, and more importantly, assuming the role of team leader.
Because that’s the thing – Jameis isn’t just a 20 year-old kid. He is the best quarterback in college football. He is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. He led his team to a National Championship victory as a freshman. Whether he likes it or not, he’s in a national spotlight that is going to reveal every ill-advised thing he does.
So he needs to make a choice. He needs to decide whether or not football means as much to him as we all think it does. Because if he continues with the pattern of behavior he has displayed over recent months, the sport will reject him, despite his talent.
It’s no longer a question of did he do this? or why did he do that? The question now is, can Jameis Winston allow himself to be satisfied with the attention and glory that his athletic ability brings him?
If not, FSU and college football will have seen a rare talent come and go as disappointingly as if he had turned out to be a bust. I think the football world wants to see him reach the incredibly high potential he has, in college and in the NFL down the road. But as of late, he has no one to blame but himself if that doesn’t happen.
The Seminoles need him now more than ever. They’re in the midst of a desperate struggle to maintain a championship-caliber display, and without him this team is a rudderless ship. As disappointed as we may be in Jameis Winston for his actions off the field, he must learn to expect better from himself.
Last year, no one expected him to do what he did. He burst onto the scene as a teenage phenom and quickly became the face of Florida State football.
The remainder of his college career must be dedicated to proving himself as the player he illustrated that he can be. More importantly, he must also learn to be a leader both on the field and off if he is to become the best version of himself.
Maybe it’s not fair that he has to do so much growing in such a short span, but he is no longer the young kid that brought a spark to the team. He is the veteran and the playmaker that every single player on his team is looking to for answers. He has to be that guy at all times, and especially when the spotlight isn’t on him.
So Jameis, are you ready to be that guy?
by MATT SIMONS / sports editor