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Florida State Football: Winston's Best Decision Is to Go Pro After Season

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Florida State Football: Winston's Best Decision Is to Go Pro After Season
USA Today

The 2014 college football season is still more than two months away, and there are seven months before a player must declare for the 2015 NFL draft.

Winning games and national titles is priceless. But the chance to start an NFL career a year early could be worth millions to Jameis Winston, and we haven't even discussed the shoe and apparel deals.

Winston has already won a Heisman Trophy and a crystal football. He won't be able to say the pursuit of a national championship is the reason he's returning to campus.

Winston hasn't said he will return to Florida State and play football in 2015, but he did tell the Associated Press in February (via ESPN.com) that he plans "on playing baseball next season anyway."

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His father, Antonor Winston, told AL.com on Wednesday that the plan is for Winston to earn his degree, meaning he will play football at FSU in 2015. And coach Jimbo Fisher said in February that he thinks "it will be two" more years at FSU.

This is all well and good in an offseason to debate. But what will happen when January arrives and Winston weighs his options? In the past week alone, Blake Bortles signed a fully guaranteed $20 million, four-year deal with the Jaguars as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Winston is already considered a top-10 pick in the 2015 by Sports Illustrated. The presumption is that a season that's even remotely similar statistically to 2013 will make him the top quarterback in the draft.

The curveball is Winston's love of baseball. How does baseball fit in? Would he even try to play some college baseball in 2015 while also training for the NFL?

There have been, of course, two-sport stars. Two of the famous examples are Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, and they did it at the highest levels.

Does that mean it's possible? Yes. Does it mean that he could try it?

Maybe.

Winston did the football-baseball double play this spring at FSU. He missed just one football practice while traveling to Clemson for a baseball series. Winston spent time on the football field working out with playmaker Rashad Greene and also a young group of rising sophomores in Jesus Wilson, Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield.

But he also served as the Seminoles' closer. Winston had a team-best 1.08 ERA in 33.1 innings, striking out 31 batters and walking seven (he was a Baseball America 2014 preseason third-team All-American).

The takeaway? He wanted to do both and he did. He knew it was important to build chemistry and rhythm with his receivers. And he knew it was important for him to help close out games in the ninth for his baseball team.

So for Winston, the spring of 2015 is again all about how he chooses to schedule it.

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

One scenario: Winston turns pro in football but retains his amateur status in baseball. He could focus on football up until the NFL Scouting Combine in February and then return to Tallahassee to work out with his hand-picked quarterback guru, all while pitching an inning or two a week as the closer.

Winston would have to be very protective of his arm. He would need to build a structured schedule that included what days he would run, lift, throw the football and throw the baseball. Oh yeah, and maybe find some time to sleep.

It sounds tough to pull off. But if Winston wanted to do it, he could play baseball in late February and parts of March and April while also taking part in his on-campus pro day and scheduling a few one-on-one workouts with NFL coaches. While many teams prefer to fly a player in for a workout, surely coaches and general managers would be willing to fly to Tallahassee and work him out either at Doak Campbell Stadium or the team's indoor practice facility.

The NFL draft was held May 8-10 in 2014. If similar dates are scheduled for 2015, it's likely that an NFL team that picks Winston won't want him to pitch in the NCAA postseason. At that point, he may have to give up college baseball for good.

But Winston would be eligible for the MLB amateur draft in June 2015. He could work out a deal with his NFL team to allow him to play in the minors during breaks over the summer.

It's a scenario where Winston doesn't pass up millions from the NFL yet still has a chance to play two sports. For Winston, the goal is to keep playing two sports as long as he can. And this provides him the financial security while giving him the ability to pursue a career in football—and perhaps baseball, too.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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