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July 21, 2014
Winston's stellar media session provides insight
GREENSBORO, N.C. - There was no scoreboard to flash his gaudy statistics. No referee to signal touchdown when he delivered a perfect strike. Not even a crowd to cheer when he avoided heavy pressure, maintained his composure and once again came through in the clutch.
No, Sunday's events didn't take place in any athletic arena at all. Instead, they occurred in a spacious conference room here at the luxurious Grandover Resort. The type typically reserved for company meetings or sales seminars.
But make no mistake, this event unquestionably had the feel of a competition. And as is usually the case when Jameis Winston is involved, it was never much of a contest.
With a rectangular table serving as his offensive line, Winston sat back in the pocket for about 60 minutes Sunday afternoon and turned in a familiarly flawless performance during the first day of interviews at ACC Kickoff.
This was 25-of-27 in his college debut at Pitt. It was his breathtaking fourth quarter in January's national championship game.
It was effortless brilliance, with Winston carving up questions from a horde of reporters the way he might an opposing secondary. Or a right-handed batter in the ninth inning of a baseball game.
When the hour-long session was up, and he had successfully answered a barrage of questions about his past, present and future, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback walked over to an FSU staff member and leaned in close before asking a rhetorical question:
"Did I kill it?" he asked in a hush tone.
The staffer didn't respond with affirmation, because he didn't need to. You could have polled each of the 100 or so media members who gathered to pepper him with questions, and they all would have said the exact same thing.
Yes, Jameis. You killed it.
Of course, as far as interrogations go, this was fairly benign. It took more than 30 minutes for any reporter to ask about Winston's shoplifting incident from this past spring. And there was no mention at all of the sexual assault investigation that ended without charges last fall … other than a handful of questions about "off-field" issues.
Those topics, of course, were what gave some Florida State fans (and staff members) trepidation about bringing Winston here this week. While many would suggest it was a no-brainer to roll out the nation's best player -- the dynamic quarterback of the reigning national champions -- others were concerned that Winston would be the subject of unfair media attacks. That even if he didn't say anything inappropriate, that a long line of "no comments" might play poorly.
In the end, none of that happened. No questions seemed out of bounds, and he answered the toughest ones with ease.
He took responsibility for putting himself in bad situations in the past and repeatedly said he has "fixed" those issues going forward. When a reporter asked if the shoplifting incident had changed his opinion of the media or law enforcement -- the implication being Winston had been treated unfairly -- he quickly dismissed that notion.
"Definitely not," he said, before adding that he was the one who needed to change. He was the one who needed to become more responsible. Who had to become a better leader off the field.
It wasn't merely what Winston said, but how he said it.
Staring out at the sea of reporters, surveying the field the way he might an opposing defense, he made solid eye contact with every questioner. He never flinched, no matter the question.
"Nothing bothers him," said FSU cornerback P.J. Williams, who was the Seminoles' defensive representative at Kickoff.
Williams was referring his teammate's ability to handle the circus-like atmosphere that follows him everywhere, now that he is the country's most famous college football player, but parallels could easily be drawn to his success on the field.
While spending time with representatives from the conference's 13 other teams -- 26 of the best players in the league -- Winston clearly was the alpha male, despite being just a sophomore. The other players watched his every move and hung on his every word.
Part of that is because of who he is as an athlete, but an equal part are his incredible interpersonal skills. They were what helped him take control of the Seminoles' huddle as a redshirt freshman with no college experience, and how he charmed a roomful of reporters here on Sunday.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Monk Bonasorte, one of five FSU staffers observing Winston's media session, exchanged a fist-bump with the quarterback after his impressive interview. If there were any internal questions about Winston's ability to handle this stage, they were answered quickly.
"There are a lot of questions coming at him, and he's doing a great job," Bonasorte said. "There were questions about the future, the past, everything. And he's got so much composure and understanding."
To tell the truth, Bonasorte might have been even more impressed with Winston's performance last week at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. While on the trip with Williams and senior wide receiver Rashad Greene, the Heisman Trophy winner was able to mingle with some of the most famous professional athletes of this generation.
"But every time he was interviewed on TV, he would pull over Rashad and P.J.," Bonasorte said. "He'd say, 'These are my teammates. Let's get them involved too.' He just has that poise and that presence."
By the time Winston was done winning the room on Sunday, the way he dominated the competition last season, FSU sports information staffers were approached by national reporters wanting to know if Winston was always like this.
Was he always so engaging and gregarious?
They had seen glimpses of his personality in the past, but it's one thing to provide a few sound bites; it's something entirely different to stay so sharp for an hour or more.
No, there was no scoreboard inside the Grandover Resort. But there didn't need to be.
It was Winston by a landslide.
As he later walked through a sea of reporters following a 15-minute session with television cameras and a quick sit-down with national radio, Winston was stopped by a familiar face -- FSU's new deputy athletic director, Karl Hicks.
During a 30-year career in athletics, including stops at the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NBA, Hicks has worked closely with thousands of college and professional athletes.
He hasn't seen many like Winston.
"Hey Jameis," Hicks said, while calling him closer. "You did very well. You did very, very well."
Yes, Jameis. You killed it.
But you already knew that.
Florida State NEWS