I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the Florida State University Athletic Center for my first class inside the building’s auditorium.
The Heisman Trophies that awaited me, won by Charlie Ward in 1993 and Chris Weinke in 1999, I wasn’t expecting to see. Nor did I think I’d see the two national championship trophies won by the Seminoles during those Heisman campaigns, the only two football titles won by the school.
Every time I strolled into that building, I glanced at the shiny trophies, wondering when my school would collect a few more. In the late 2000s, it seemed we’d need to get comfortable with only having two trophies apiece, because our football program was floundering.
Now, just four years later, Jameis Winston will win the school’s third Heisman on Saturday night. It’s all but confirmed based on the 1-150 odds attached to his name by Las Vegas (betting $150 on Winston to win the trophy will pay back $1 – has any Heisman finalist ever been favored by that much?), so most will only be tuning in to hear the freshman phenom deliver his acceptance speech in the final five minutes of the TV special.
It’s a well-deserved honor – Winston has yet to lose a football game in his college career, leading the lone undefeated team in the nation. In 13 games, Winston threw for 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He completed 68 percent of his passes, and if you factor in his shortened playing time due to blowouts in a majority of the games played by the Seminoles, his statistics get even more impressive.
His competitors were playing 60 minutes to accrue their stats, but because Winston’s team put up margins of victory not seen in the sport since World War II, his services were often not needed in the second half of games.
Winston was the team’s leader in every sense of the word. He’d take the reins in the locker room before games, talking up his teammates to provide motivation when needed. On the field, he would pull a player aside to give advice and correct any mistakes he saw. It was fun to see a freshman act like a coach, and he always seemed to know what he was talking about.
FSU may not win a national title, but the entire way, I’ve said this team is too much fun to worry about that in October or November. They were a group to be admired in-season because they were a well-oiled, perfect machine that preyed on lesser opponents. Winston’s incredible play tied everything together, and his personality was impossible to ignore.
So, put a smile on your face, ‘Nole Nation, because we’ll need to make our trophy case a little bigger.