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FSU's Winston Deservedly Steals Headlines

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Jameis Winston may just now be emerging on the radar of casual fans, but it's taken Florida State's freshman quarterback years to prepare for this moment. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.
Jameis Winston may just now be emerging on the radar of casual fans, but it's taken Florida State's freshman quarterback years to prepare for this moment. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.

There’s a new Clowney in town.

It’s still summer and columnists are turning on Jadeveon Clowney and spreading the love on Florida State's Jameis Winston, the redshirt freshman who already had a Comic Book-like backstory but exploded on the scene in Week 1 and is now being paraded around headlines more than a Kardashian.

But unlike Kim — or Khloe (or … Kourtney?) — Winston deserves it, and he will continue to earn the headlines and even Heisman talk just like he earned his way to big-time FBS football.

Winston, however, wasn’t the only star to come through on opening weekend. Clemson’s Tahj Boyd, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and even Fresno State’s David Carr, among others, had huge opening days to lead their respective teams to victory.

But Winston, who finished 25-of-27 for 356 yards and four TDs (34 rush yards, TD), stuck out for a number of reasons.

1. It was his first college game.
2. It was against a solid defense (Pittsburgh was 17th in the country in 2012 and returned nine defensive starters).
3. It was in the national spotlight (Monday night on ESPN).

Truth is the tale of Jameis goes much deeper than that.

ESPN.com published a story early Monday, the day of Jameis’ coming-out party. It shared an anecdote about the early days of Jameis in Alabama, where he kept a notebook diagramming how to break down Cover 2s and other defensive schemes and listing key quarterback traits. He was a 12-year-old.

In high school, he became a top recruit in football and baseball, getting looks from top schools in and out of his home state, but reportedly not from the one he wanted to go to most.

Jameis later told media that if Texas had wanted him, he’d be a Longhorns quarterback. Conflicting reports have surfaced that point to confusion on the recruiting front between Texas and Jameis’ high school.

Jameis’ high school coach Matt Scott told CBSsports.com: “I can tell you this: [Texas] didn't call me, and I was on the front line. His dad made it clear he wanted Jameis and I to handle it. I can promise you, they didn't call me and I called them multiple times. And it's hard for me to believe that one of the nation's top programs is gonna concede, 'Well, we're not going to get this guy.'"

I am going to believe most of that. It would have taken some serious confusion to lose this kid in the recruiting process.

Then, Jameis gets to Florida State and redshirted in the fall of 2012 because now-NFL QB E.J. Manuel was leading the Seminoles into the national title hunt. In the spring, he played baseball for the Seminoles and appeared in 42 of his team’s 64 games. While he hit a pedestrian .235, he did make some highlight-reel plays on defense and more than one-third of his hits (10 of 28) went for extra bases.

But the legend of Jameis spread off the fields too. The teenager fired a football a reported 75 yards up and over a fraternity house, a feat allegedly only one other man has accomplished. The video became a YouTube hit and Seminoles fans expected more and more for 2013.

The buildup to his arrival this season was extraordinary from the media as well as the fans. Everyone wondered what the kid could actually do on the field. But with Johnny Drama (aka Football) and other stars higher on the totem pole, Winston had to wait his turn. And he didn't wait long. 

He turned Monday night into magic. His gaudy numbers were enough — my god, the kid only missed two throws — but if you watched that game, you saw more. You saw a quarterback ready for his situation. He looked poised and decisive. He was precise. He was elusive and tall at the same time. And he did it with moxie, not arrogance. There was a wide smile, but there was no taunting, no signing autographs in the air.

There's a long, long, long way to go and I get that. I am so far removed from this kid's personal life, for all I know, he could be the next brat in the making. But it doesn't feel or look that way. I was skeptical when Football.com ranked its quarterbacks and this kid was in the Top 25. I wasn't buying, but Jameis just sold me his stock first-hand. 

There’s a big Alabama/Texas A&M coming up if you haven’t heard. It’s getting some hype. But thanks to Jameis, another date between two national contenders and Heisman candidates should be circled on your calendar:  

Oct. 19: Florida State at Clemson.