He stepped off the team bus outside Doak Campbell Stadium the same way he does before every other game, wearing gold headphones and walking through a lane of Florida State fans.
“Here he comes!” a woman outfitted in FSU apparel exclaimed.
He jogged onto the field in full pads and took part in the pregame warmups, at least initially.
But when it came time for Jameis Winston to strap on his helmet, take the field and perform, the Heisman Trophy winner stood on the sideline and watched as Sean Maguire, his backup, took his place.
Wearing black sweatpants, his garnet jersey and a baseball cap that he waved in the air to excite the crowd, Winston was reduced to cheerleader on Saturday as he served a one-game suspension for his latest wrongdoing, making “offensive and vulgar” comments on campus earlier in the week.
The sideline was his jail cell.
The timing could hardly have been much worse for FSU.
Florida State wasn’t going against The Citadel. This was No.22 Clemson.
At stake: the Seminoles’ No.1 ranking, school-record 18-game winning streak and any realistic shot of defending their national title come January. A loss to Clemson would bring it all crashing down.
Winston was originally suspended for the first half only. But late Friday, university interim president Garnett S. Stokes announced that the suspension had been increased to all of Saturday’s game.
The reason: Winston hadn’t been completely truthful to school officials when he gave his side of the story.
“Based upon the results of our continuing investigation of Tuesday’s incident involving Jameis Winston, we have decided to not play him for the entire game against Clemson on Saturday night,” Stokes and FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox said in a prepared statement.
Winston’s absence was tangible early.
With Maguire at the helm, the Seminoles struggled to generate yardage, mustering only four first downs and 84 total yards in the first half.
The Noles were held without a first-half touchdown, something that had never happened on Winston’s watch, and trailed 10-3 at halftime.
But Winston’s latest shenanigans left the university little choice.
The reaction to the lengthier suspension was largely favorable among critics who felt the initial punishment was too lenient. Many felt the quarterback should have received a one-game suspension rather than the half-game penalty that was levied initially.
“As a former player at Florida State, I am embarrassed,” said Lee Corso of ESPN Gameday during Saturday’s broadcast from Tallahassee.
His disappointment was echoed by other former Seminole players.
“I’m not embarrassed,” said former FSU defensive end Peter Boulware, who went on to play in the NFL. “I’m all for giving kids chances. But at the same time, you do need to learn from your mistakes and get better. Sometimes, if you have to sit out a game, that may be the best thing for you.”
Deion Sanders said he and other former Seminoles have spoken to Winston in the past about how he should behave.
“Trust me, all of us have spoken [to] him and tried to lead him in the right direction,” Sanders said Saturday on SiriusXM radio. “But he’s a grown man. You can’t make a grown man do what he don’t want to do.”
Sanders said Winston is hard to understand.
“He is a kid with two parents, who knows better,” Sanders said. “It’s not a kid with a single parent and is acting out. He knows better. Sometimes a kid that comes from a good background wants to be a bad boy, and a kid from a bad background, he wants to be a good boy. Jameis needs to figure out what he wants to be because what he wants to be and where he wants to go are not lining up with his actions. They’re not lining up whatsoever.”
Even former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow chimed in on Winston.
“Well, I have two sisters and a mom, and what was said just isn’t OK,” Tebow said on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “My hope and my prayer for Jameis is that he can find wise counsel and that he can find people that will invest in him and invest in his life. He has something to live for that’s more important than just the moment because when you live for the moment, the moment will always let you down in silly situations like he’s been in in the past.”