Winston went as far as to even mention specific teams he could envision suiting up for:
You can do anything you put your mind to. A lot of people are going to say, no way, he's a quarterback, Bo Jackson was a running back. But if I put my mind to it -- and the one thing I always seem to do is gain the trust of my teammates -- if I can convince those guys I can be your quarterback and still go play baseball for the Atlanta Braves or New York Yankees...
Failure isn't part of Winston's makeup, but the rigorous demands of the quarterback position won't allow him to adequately develop as a professional baseball player. Winston won't make it as a two-sport star, dominating the diamond and gridiron like Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson once did.
Of course, that doesn't mean Winston isn't talented or driven enough to compete, succeed and dominate both realms of professional sports. It just means the odds are stacked against him completing the task.
First, let's acknowledge Winston's immense talent.
On the football field, he just completed one of the best campaigns a redshirt freshman has ever had at the quarterback position. From the Heisman Trophy to a BCS championship, Winston dominated college football on a week-to-week basis. If he was eligible to declare for the NFL draft, teams would line up for the chance at drafting him.
On the baseball field, Winston isn't as polished, but few college players are. As an outfielder and pitcher, Winston had the tools to be a high pick out of high school but chose Florida State University in order to play two sports. When his date with the MLB draft arrives, Winston's tools will make him a high pick.
While Jackson and Sanders are the most obvious and famous examples of the two-sport star in baseball and football, Winston, as a top-flight quarterback, shares a love of both sports in common with many signal-callers in history. In fact, 19 NFL quarterbacks—ranging from Hall of Fame talents to third-string clipboard holders—have moonlighted as professional baseball players.
|Player||MLB Claim to Fame|
|Troy Aikman||Drafted by Mets out of high school|
|Sammy Baugh||Played in minors for Cardinals|
|Michael Bishop||Drafted by Indians|
|Josh Booty||Played in Marlins system|
|Tom Brady||Drafted by Expos|
|Brooks Bollinger||Drafted twice by Dodgers|
|Daunte Culpepper||Drafted by Yankees|
|Dennis Dixon||Drafted by Atlanta Braves, played in rookie league|
|John Elway||Played in minors for Yankees and Royals|
|Colin Kaepernick||Drafted by Cubs in 43rd round|
|Jake Locker||Drafted by Angels in 10th round|
|Dan Marino||Drafted by Royals|
|Matt Moore||Drafted by Angels in 2004|
|Akili Smith||Played two seasons in the minors|
|Russell Wilson||Drafted by Rockies, claimed by Rangers|
|Mike Vick||Drafted by Rockies in 2000|
|Brandon Weeden||Played in minors for Dodgers and Yankees|
|Chris Weinke||Played six years in the minors|
|Pat White||Signed with Royals after release from NFL|
That list, including names like Tom Brady, John Elway and Troy Aikman, gives credence to the long-held belief of the quarterback as the most athletic player on the football field. While the Hall of Fame quarterbacks are most famous, it's two current stars—Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick—that should pave the way for Winston to eventually focus on one sport.
Wilson and Kaepernick, slated to meet in the NFC Championship Game, were both accomplished baseball players in college. Wilson, originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010, was recently claimed by the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. The Chicago Cubs selected Kaepernick, a pitcher during his baseball days, in the 43rd round in 2009.
The success of these two young, dynamic quarterbacks represents what Winston can strive to be. Unfortunately for the dream of two-sport stardom, it also dashes the idea of seeing Winston starting as an NFL quarterback and contributing to a Major League Baseball team.
As the NFL spotlight moves to the NFC stars, their work ethic, film study and preparation will be part of the narrative. If Wilson and Kaepernick dedicated time, even a few hours per week during the offseason, to the game of baseball, their sharpness on the football field would suffer. As offense in the NFL becomes more sophisticated by the week, young quarterbacks must refine their game throughout the year.
Baseball has always demanded extreme work ethic. For young players, it can take years to hone a skill set tailored for the game. Winston, as both a pitcher and outfielder, needs reps, innings and coaching in order to become good enough to play in the majors.
Unlike the other pro sports, baseball churns out future stars only after years of competition and reps in the minors. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, two of the brightest young stars in a generation, combined to play in 420 minor league games and take 1,589 at-bats before reaching the majors.
If Winston chooses to take the pitching path, he'll need to build up innings, refine his command and learn how to set up hitters over years of competition in the minors.
As Jim Callis, senior writer for MLB.com, opines in the following video, the more Winston plays football, the harder it will be to develop the baseball skills necessary to compete at the highest level. As Callis explains, it's a catch-22 for two-sport athletes: Dedication to one sport directly hampers performance in the other.
Winston's talent can lead him to the eyes of scouts in both sports, but that won't make him a star in either realm.
This hypothetical situation would be easier if Winston played a less demanding position in football. If he was a running back like Jackson or defensive back like Sanders, athleticism could carry him through much of what the NFL demands. Ironically, avoiding much of training camp would probably be ideal if Winston played running back. Baseball, less physically taxing and less harmful on the legs, could prolong a career at running back for Winston.
Yet he's not a running back. By succeeding so famously as a young quarterback, Winston has raised the bar and made himself the talk of the sporting world.
Over the next few years, he'll be able to keep the dream alive, but at some point, a decision will arrive.
When it does, it's hard to imagine the Bleacher Report MLB team writing much more about the Heisman Trophy winner. Football will be too hard to pass up for a player this special.
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