NEW YORK — Jameis Winston has won the Heisman Trophy, making the Florida State quarterback the second straight freshman to win the award.
Winston is a landslide winner of college football’s most prestigious individual honor. He received 668 first-place votes to finish 1,501 points ahead of AJ McCarron of Alabama.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman, and now Winston has made it two in the 79-year history of the award. Winston also is the youngest winner at 23 days short of 20.
Winston is the nation’s top-rated passer and has led the top-ranked Seminoles to the BCS championship game against No. 2 Auburn on his birthday, Jan. 6.
The 19-year-old also was investigated last month for a year-old sexual assault, but no charges were filed.
Through the tribulations, Winston saw the football field as a sanctuary and his play never diminished. No. 1 FSU, the only undefeated team in the country, will play Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game on Winston’s birthday. The Seminoles are on pace to be the highest-scoring team in college-football history.
And Winston is at the center of it all.
He has recorded 3,820 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns – ranking second nationally – and has the country’s highest passing efficiency rating of 190.1.
Growing up in Bessemer, Ala., Winston was a prodigy, always playing at a level two or three years past his peers, according to Hueytown Coach Mark Stephens, who was a defensive coordinator when Winston was on the team.
Winston was zealously diagraming complex plays in middle school and starting at Hueytown High as a freshman.
“His football IQ, if there’s any way to measure that, it’s unmatched,” said Scott, who is now coaching at Gadsden City in Alabama. “When I’m talking about the details and those things, you’re teaching coverages and stuff like that, you tell him one time and he’s got it. He gets it immediately, but then he can go out there on the field and do it.”
Scott’s favorite story to tell about Winston goes back to when he first met the signal caller. Scott just took the job at Hueytown after Winston’s freshman year.
He knew he had a decent player to work with, but he wanted to see more from Winston, so he took the young quarterback and a senior receiver to Hueytown’s field to run some passing plays.
“It was a pretty relaxed atmosphere,” Scott said. “Well, he throws this senior receiver a ball and the kid dropped it. He’s a pretty good player. He comes back and Jameis grabs him by the shirt and says, ‘you’re a senior, catch the ball.’
“I knew then we had a different deal here.”
A two-sport athlete, Winston also played baseball at Hueytown and signed with FSU largely because he could play baseball along with football.
After recording a win as a pitcher in a playoff baseball game at Hueytown, Winston was asked to close out the series late in a game a few days later. Entering the seventh inning up one run, Winston immediately allowed a leadoff double.
“You could see it in his eyes. He looked down at the dugout and shook his head like ‘I got this, I got this,’” said Rick Patterson, Hueytown’s baseball coach. ‘You could see in his head, in his mind, in his actions, ‘I’m going to show you all that you’re not gonna score.’ He just turned it up each batter.”
Winston then recorded three consecutive outs to send his team to the state semifinal.
His physical skill set combined with strong mental resolve made him a commodity in both sports.
“I thought he was the best player in the country,” said Andrew Bone, a senior recruiting analyst for Tidesports.com who covered Winston’s recruitment closely. “Anyone that watched him play could tell he was an elite football player. He had the arm strength, everything you were looking for.”