NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Taking orders from a freshman didn’t come easily to Kenny Shaw.
Jameis Winston isn’t your run-of-the-mill freshman, though. On a Florida State squad filled with upperclassmen at every turn, Winston had no problem calling his elders out last summer. It was weird the first few times it happened, Shaw acknowledged.
But when teammates saw what the first-year signal-caller was capable of, any harsh feelings they may have had quickly dissipated.
“He gained our respect from then with seven-on-sevens and workouts in the summertime,” said Shaw, a senior receiver. “Coach (Jimbo) Fisher always preaches that there's no limit to the ages of players. (Winston) proved that to us as teammates and the nation this year.”
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Did he ever.
The Alabama native took the college football world by storm in his collegiate debut, completing an astounding 92.6 percent (25 of 27) of his passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-13 win over Pittsburgh. It was merely the first of many spectacular outings for Winston in 2013. He went on to throw for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns (against 10 interceptions) en route to leading the Seminoles to an ACC championship and a 13-0 record.
Thanks to those numbers, he captured the sport’s most prestigious award — the Heisman Trophy — on Dec. 14 in a landslide.
Surprising as it may sound, Winston said his life hasn’t changed despite all his individual accomplishments this season.
“Because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet,” Winston said Friday. “At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like ‘OK, they've got a freshman quarterback.’ Nobody is going to pay any attention (to us). Now we're in the national championship.”
As much as Winston tried to divert the focus from himself to his team, others wouldn’t have it. This led to teammates and coaches having to field questions about the possibility that Winston could be the face of an NFL franchise — right now. It’s more hypothetical than reality, of course; the redshirt freshman still is a year away from being eligible to enter the NFL Draft.
What’s more, he’s only 19 years old.
That tidbit was the furthest thing from Randy Sanders’ mind. Adopting the well-worn adage, the Seminoles’ quarterbacks coach views Winston’s age as nothing more than a number.
“Whether Jameis is 19, whether he's 22, whether he's playing at Florida State or whether he's playing in the NFL, I would expect him to play at a high level,” Sanders said. “That's what he does. That's what he expects of himself. He's done it 13 times this year, and does it pretty much every day at practice. When you really prepare and you prepare hard each day, then game days are easier. I tell him all the time when you're making throws, try to make it hard on yourself. Make it as hard as you can in practice so when you get the opportunity in the game, it's easier.”
As well as he has played this season, Winston is hoping he has saved his best for last.
Ironically enough, Monday night’s BCS championship game falls on his 20th birthday.
“We're not going out there just to play around. We're not going out there to take anybody for granted,” he said. “We're going out there to play a great game. We're going out there to do what we came here to do every single game, 13 games. It's not over yet. We've got a 14th one, and why not end this year with a victory?”