NEW YORK (AP) — Jameis Winston smiled and laughed, posing for pictures with the other Heisman Trophy finalists and the big bronze statue that he is expected to take home.
And when it came time to answer questions from the media on Friday, the Florida State star quarterback did so confidently and without hesitation, even when his protection broke down.
Winston and four of the other six Heisman finalists — Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Auburn's Tre Mason, Boston College's Andre Williams and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch — met with reporters at a Midtown Manhattan hotel for short interviews. Alabama's AJ McCarron was in Baltimore accepting another award.
Florida State officials tried to limit questions that were even vaguely related to the rape accusation against Winston. The state attorney closed the investigation last week, saying there was not enough evidence to win a conviction.
The 19-year-old, who hasn't spoken directly about the details of the investigation, seemed unfazed by the questions that did come his way. He said he was fine remaining silent about the case.
"I knew I did nothing wrong. I knew I could respect the process and I'd eventually be vindicated. It was more about me being silent for my family because I didn't want to put my family in those situations.
"We had so much respect for Mr. (Tim) Jansen and everything going around and knew I did nothing wrong and everything would be OK."
Winston was the only Heisman finalist to show up with his lawyer, Jansen, who strolled in with the Florida State entourage for the media availability. Winston looked like a college student going to class: Black Florida State sweatsuit with garnet trim, and a matching backpack hanging off his shoulders.
Winston is the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman after a sensational season, leading No. 1 Florida State to the national championship game against No. 2 Auburn.
But the celebration of his record-breaking performance has been muted by a year-old sexual assault allegation that went from dormant to active last month. The Tallahassee Police gave its finding to prosecutors, who took three weeks to investigate further and decide not to press charges.