Even before the approximately 100 media members had time to ask the first of many questions at ACC Kickoff, Jameis Winston had one himself.
"How does it feel to have an ACC team come in here with a national championship?" the Florida State quarterback said, according to 247Sports' Tim Linafelt. "Can we get the ACC a round of applause? Finally, we took it away from the SEC. It's a blessing."
The Bessemer, Alabama, native, who grew up just a short drive from Alabama and Auburn, delivered quite the punch to the SEC's gut on Jan. 6, leading a final-minute rally as Florida State defeated Auburn 34-31 to win the national title. FSU's win halted the SEC's streak of seven straight national titles.
And it was also quite the punchline as Winston was just getting warmed up on Sunday afternoon. The media is there to do a job, ask questions—often tough ones. But Winston handled all of them with ease. He said all the right things and gave us a look at a new, more mature person.
His 2013 season will go down as one of the best of any freshman in college football history. He threw for a school-record 40 touchdown passes, capturing a Heisman Trophy at 19 and winning a national title on the day he turned 20.
But off the field, Winston has frequently found his way into the headlines.
In November 2013, he was investigated for sexual assault but not arrested or charged by State Attorney Willie Meggs. And in April, Winston was cited—but not arrested—for stealing $32 in seafood from a Publix supermarket near FSU's campus. The two-sport star was suspended for three baseball games in May while he served 20 hours of community service.
Winston wasn't asked directly about the sexual assault investigation, The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter wrote. But Porter said Winston did address the citation:
I don't go into detail, but I did fix it and I've learned from my mistakes. Like I always say, the leadership I've gained from my past mistakes has gotten better. I learned what it really takes to be a leader and everybody's going to be watching you. You have to do the right thing.
Only time will tell how much Winston has learned from his mistakes. But it appears he's disappointed in himself—and that should make him a better person. And, as the Tallahassee Democrat's Corey Clark points out, FSU sports information officials were there if needed to put a halt to any questions or assist Winston. But "there were never any tense moments," Clark wrote.
He was also asked about one of college football's hot topics, the payment of student-athletes. In the wake of an effort by Northwestern football players to unionize, Winston said (via 247Sports) that he didn't feel a need to be paid while playing college athletics.
We're blessed to get a free education. That's the most important thing. My job as a Florida State Seminole is to be a good student first and then an athlete second. That scholarship that we get every year, that's enough money for me.
Winston spent time talking about football and FSU's outlook for 2014. He told The Post that he has been focusing on his throwing mechanics, specifically "working on my hips." And while FSU loses five starters on each side of the ball, Winston told reporters that "the most important thing is we got our offensive line back."
After winning the Heisman as a freshman, Winston's numbers from 2013 will be compared to his 2014 stats as well as those of other stars in college football this season. Winston is aiming to become the first back-to-back Heisman winner since Ohio State running back Archie Griffin in 1974 and '75.
In response to a question about a Heisman repeat, Winston said: "I want to be a two-time national championship quarterback."
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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