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December 5, 2013

FSU, Winston overcome ultimate clutter

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Jameis Winston and his team have overcome the ultimate "clutter".

The oft used phrase comes from Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher to describe outside distractions that could adversely impact his team's ability to perform at high level. Considering all the off the field detractions a big time college athlete faces every day, avoiding clutter is much easier said than done. But somehow Florida State's players have done a masterful job at ignoring the outside world and focusing completely on the task of winning football games and making FSU an elite program.

The media circus surrounding the sexual assault investigation involving Winston the past three weeks has given a whole need meaning to the term "clutter". Pretty much every media outlet in the United States, and even a few overseas, have been focusing on Florida State's mega star quarterback and the investigation by the Leon County State Attorney's office. If that wasn't enough to escalate this "story" to unprecedented levels for a 19-year old that wasn't even charged with a crime, State Attorney Willie Meggs, the Tallahassee Police Department, Winston's attorney Tim Jansen, and the accuser's attorney Patricia Carroll regularly issued statements, held media sessions and press conferences that continually fueled the already over the top media frenzy.

But somehow Winston and his team carried on as if it were business as usual. Handling that and doing so without flinching would hard enough to do for any individual much less a 19-year old student athlete.

"I think he's very mature. He has ability, he has strength in his beliefs and what he does. He's very mature that way. A lot of grown-ups can't do that," said Fisher. "He can prioritize and compartmentalize when he has to do certain things... That gets back to controlling what you can control at that present time and I think he's done a very good of that."

The ultimate evidence is how Winston performed on the field. During the three-game stretch after the story of the investigation broke, he completed 52-of-77 pass attempts (67.5%) for 829 yards, with nine touchdown passes and only one interception. That's right in line with his record-breaking production during the prior nine games when there wasn't a potential felony charge hanging over his head.

Despite all that was happening outside of football, Winston carried on with his daily routine as if he didn't have a care in the world. That routine included regular post-game press conferences and a weekly media sit-down on Wednesday's to discuss football. Never once did the media storm or his legal situation show in how he conducted himself in front of the media or his teammates. FSU's freshman signal-caller was just as affable and engaging as he was the first time he was introduced to the media in the preseason.

The nature of the clutter will change over the next month for Winston and Florida State but there will still be plenty of it.

A week after Saturday's ACC Championship game in Charlotte, FSU's freshman quarterback will be in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. With his legal situation behind him, Winston is the overwhelming favorite to become Florida State's third Heisman Trophy winner. After bringing home college football's ultimate individual award, his next task will be to direct FSU to the ultimate team award - a national championship. If the Seminoles take care of the Blue Devils on Saturday, they will face either Ohio State or the winner between Auburn and Missouri for BCS National Championship in Pasadena on Jan. 6.

Those events will bring massive media attention to Winston and the Seminole football program, but as Fisher likes to say that's probably "good clutter" especially compared to what everyone has had to endure over the past few weeks.



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