LAKE, BUENA VISTA FLORIDA – The first time Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston ever thought about winning the Heisman Trophy, he was a 12-year-old kid playing video games.
“Playing NCAA 2006 was the first time I was aware of the Heisman,” he said Wednesday. “When you could create a player and do the ‘Road to Glory’ and you could get the Heisman.”
Now that road could end with him holding the real thing, and several other big awards.
Winston is the overwhelming favorite to win the award now that a sexual assault complaint against him in Tallahassee has been closed without charges being filed.
Winston enters Thursday’s College Football Awards Show at Disney nominated for two of the night’s top awards — the Maxwell Award for the nation’s top player and the Davey O’Brien quarterback award. He joins Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, as well as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who are both nominated for the same awards.
The now 19-year-old Winston described the week since Florida State secured its spot in the BCS national championship game as a whirlwind. But he said he goes into college football’s version of awards season humbled even as a huge Heisman favorite.
“Obviously, all the Heisman stuff, I really admire the people that have voted for me and all that stuff, Winston said. “So, like I said, it’s overwhelming to me.”
Should Winston claim the Heisman, it would be the second consecutive year that the award went to a freshman.
Though that would also mean his name isn’t called, McCarron said it would be a feat that wouldn’t be derided by the fifth-year senior, who just missed a shot at leading Alabama to a third consecutive national championship.
“It doesn’t make me feel any way. I’m happy for those guys,” he said. “Johnny’s one of my good friends. Jameis, I’d be happy for him, too. I don’t have any hatred against anybody, or against the Heisman committee or whoever votes on it. They’re going to vote how they’re going to vote.
“I’m happy, and like I said I go home at night and I can pull out my three national championship rings and smile pretty big and be pretty happy. I don’t need an individual award to tell me what I’ve achieved.”
Still, he said the invitation to New York, which will be his first trip to New York, is something he will savor.
“Of course it made me feel good. I kind of smiled, proved a lot of people wrong. But I also feel like I earned it and I deserve it,” McCarron said. “I think if you look at . . . the three years of me starting, I’d put my numbers up (against) anybody in the country . . . What, 13 interceptions my whole three years starting? I mean, a lot of guys throw that in one year. I feel like I’ve taken care of the ball, I’ve done all the right things on and off the field.
“So if the award goes by their mission statement, I feel like I fit it pretty well.”
Wednesday’s was also a lot more low key this time around for Manziel, who had his hopes of a Heisman repeat clouded by less than stellar performances late in the year and four losses by the Aggies.
Though he’s granted a vote this year as a Heisman winner, Manziel said he was “going to follow the Heisman Trust” and not reveal his vote. But he said he didn’t vote for himself in first or second place.
“It’s a possibility,” Manziel said of the chances of seeing consecutive freshmen win. “I guess we’ll find out on Saturday. But it’s crazy to have that long of a barrier and then potentially we could have two back-to-back. So definitely a neat deal, though.”
While there is lots of intrigue about whether he could enter the NFL draft after the season ends, Manziel said he will take time after the season to discuss it with his mentors and coaches.
But he said he likes his readiness.
“In my mind, I feel like I’m playing for the most part at a high level,” he said. “I’m putting the ball where I want it to be, and I’m throwing it with a lot of velocity. So in my mind, I think I am.”
As for Winston, he said he hasn’t started to envision holding the Heisman at the end of the week.
“It would be an honor, man,” Winston said. “If that happens, just to look in the stands and see my family, and see my coach, and say ‘Hey, I made you happy. I made your proud.’ It’s not really for me. It’s for my family and my teammates.
“My teammates, they’re going to like that, because my teammates want me to get it and my family, of course they want me to get it. So it’s more about them than me.”