Sore loser? Gracious in defeat? Stunned into silence?
Before Thursday’s College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl, nobody knew how Jameis Winston would react to being on the losing end of a college football game. Now the world knows a little bit more about the young man who has moved at rocket-pace speed from Alabama high schooler to worldwide college football star — and target for criticism.
He’s honest in defeat, even if he’s not all that experienced. He’s real.
In a way, his reaction to ending the game with fewer points than the opposition was captivating, just like his play on the field during a 29-game winning streak.
“No one likes to lose, man. I mean, losing is not really in my vocabulary, to be honest with you,” he said in the postgame press conference, head held high, engaging with the reporters hurling questions his way. “It hurts badder than whatever you can imagine, but the good thing is we live to fight another day.”
Indeed, there will be another day. The question is what type of uniform the soon-to-be 21-year-old will be wearing on that day.
Will it be the duds of a jubilant NFL franchise? Before that decision, will he be sporting the Seminole colors again on the baseball team? The question can even be asked with a straight face as to whether he will be in an FSU football uniform again.
He’s not giving any hints, though, when it comes to whether the nation had just witnessed his final football game at the collegiate level.
“I’m not focused on that at all,” he said, with the confidence of somebody who knew they would be answering that exact question.
He’s not even old enough to legally buy a beer, yet he’s already been labeled so many things: A national champion. A Heisman Trophy winner. A gifted athlete with a jaw-dropping legacy. Accused as a rapist. A petty thief.
He’s been loved by those in the garnet-and-gold world, and vilified by others. He’s been amazing on the field, and he’s been shaky at the helm. He’s willed his team to improbable wins, and he’s been suspended.
But he had never been a loser.
It hurt Winston to be talking about a loss. It didn’t hurt him to look at all of the positives — or the bigger picture, perhaps — and he often chose to mention those things. Fighting another day, great teammates and the opportunity to be part of a legendary winning streak were common cries in his postgame comments.
He gets how big of a deal it is to be where he is, and one loss doesn’t crush the significance of it all.
“I remember how it was when people didn’t know who I was. Everything I have experienced has made me a better person,” Winston said. “I’ve got a coach who loves me, I’ve got family. There’s nowhere to go but up when you have great people around you.”
Winston asked reporters in the room to “be real” with themselves and realize that his team had what it took to beat Oregon. They beat themselves with five turnovers, and that was it, he said.
And he had liberty to ask everyone to be real.
After all, he was real with the world when it came to finding out what type of loser he is: an honest, composed, realistic one.