Jameis Winston couldn’t be any more perfect on the football field.
During his college career at Florida State, he’s won every game he’s played, led the Seminoles to a national championship and became the youngest player by age to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He can throw. He can run. He can lead.
Off the field?
Not so much.
As Florida State prepares to face Oklahoma State at a stadium in which many predict the Seminoles will return for the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game, all eyes are on Winston. People want to see what he does this season — and not just when he’s got on his shoulder pads.
No player in college football is more polarizing.
A few weeks back, Florida State launched an “Ask Jameis” campaign on Twitter. The school’s PR folks thought it would be a good way for fans to interact with the best player in college football, but most folks saw it as open season on Winston.
It was such a disaster that Florida State put a kibosh on the whole thing.
To think that it’s been less than a year since the college football world loved Winston. Then a redshirt freshman, he burst onto the scene with an amazing 356-yard, four-touchdown debut.
One web headline: “Winston is the anti-Manziel”.
With college football growing weary of Texas A&M quarterback and defending Heisman winner Johnny Manziel’s antics, the accompanying story predicted that “there’s little fear that the ‘Famous Jameis’ persona will become bigger than Winston, the football player” and that “he vowed not to get ‘Manziel Disease’”.
Those were the days of glowing adjectives for Winston. Personable. Goofy. Likeable. Fresh. Humble. Exciting. Grounded.
Easy to root for.
Those sure aren’t words often associated with Winston anymore.
His public persona began to change when allegations of sexual assault surfaced late last season. The incident had occurred almost a year before, in December 2012, but the police in Tallahassee were still investigating. Ultimately, no charges were filed, but the fallout has been troubling.
The Tallahassee police department has come under searing scrutiny for how it handled the investigation.
Ditto for Florida State.
The school is required under federal law to investigate any time there is an alleged sexual assault involving a student. Because it did not follow protocols, the Department of Education launched a full-blown investigation that is still ongoing.
A New York Times investigation earlier this year revealed that essentially no one investigated the rape allegations against Winston. Not the police. Not the school.
Amid the media coverage of the sexual assault allegations against Winston, other run-ins with the law were uncovered.
Not long after Winston arrived on the Florida State campus, police were called to a Burger King in Tallahassee. Winston was stealing soda and being disruptive.
No charges were filed.
Several months later, while Winston was redshirting, police questioned him and several other football players after more than a dozen windows were broken at an apartment complex near the campus. The players were having a BB gun battle.