Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston never said the word “rape” or mentioned “crab legs” on Sunday. But he sure talked a lot about maturing and learning from his mistakes.
Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner who led the Seminoles to a 14-0 season and a national title victory over Auburn, courted a huge contingent of media members at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff.
As usual, he was outspoken and friendly and confident and looked media members straight in the eyes as he answered every question, no matter how uncomfortable he might have been. Going through rape accusations last year for a 2012 off-campus incident in Tallahassee but ultimately not being criminally charged, and shoplifting $32.72 worth of crab legs and crawfish from a Tallahassee Publix in April would be enough fodder to draw a crowd for any player, let alone one of Winston’s fame.
“I’ve matured enough to understand what it really takes to be a leader,” said Winston, who entered a pretrial diversion program after the Publix incident and completed 20 hours of community service. “When you’re out there and the spotlight is on you, you have to be very careful with everything you do, and I feel like I’m doing a better job doing that.”
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He was asked if what he went through changed the way he looks at the media and law enforcement.
“Definitely not, because I fixed everything,” he said. “I was cleared and, I mean, I’ve got to hold myself to a certain standard. … I have teammates that are counting on me. Accountability is something that’s very important to me.”
He said he learned that “everyone is always going to be watching you, and you have to do the right thing.”
“Do you understand why people might be hesitant to believe you?” Winston was asked.
“I definitely understand that because of the perspective, but I know the type of person I am, and I know I have support from my teammates and that I was raised by a great family. That’s the least of my worries what people think.”
Winston, who threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns last season, said he didn’t know the exact location of his Heisman Trophy. He is from Hueytown, Alabama.
“I think my dad takes it to restaurants and all that stuff,” he said, flashing a smile. “He has my trophy — our trophy — somewhere different every day.”
ACC commissioner John Swofford gave his annual address Sunday, reflecting his approval and enthusiasm for the addition of Louisville — “an institution and athletic program on a tremendous upward trajectory” — to the conference. “I know of no other athletic program that has progressed as much as Louisville in the last 15 years.”
Swofford also said the league was in favor of an early signing period for recruits.
“We’re willing to have some flexibility as to when that is, but we feel it’s something that would be healthy for the game, healthy for the institutions and healthy for the young men being recruited,” he said.
Postseason-wise, Swofford said the ACC has “got as good a shot as anybody to be in the top four the first year” of the College Football Playoff. “Do I think the controversies are going to go away?” he added. “No. Whoever is fifth is probably going to be unhappy.”