NOTE: This entry is a revised (i.e., slightly longer) version of the column I wrote for the Dec. 8 newspaper:
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will win the Heisman Trophy, likely by a landslide of votes.
Entering Saturday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Duke in Charlotte, N.C., the redshirt freshman already had passed for 3,490 yards and 35 touchdowns with only eight interceptions this season. He had completed 68.8 percent of his passes.
By the time he gets done dissecting the Blue Devils, Winston’s statistical argument could be nearing 4,000 yards and 40 touchdown passes. And, of course, it helps his case that the Seminoles still will be unbeaten and will have secured their spot in the BCS national championship game next month.
In comparison, 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M passed for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions in becoming the first redshirt freshman to win the trophy.
Yes, I voted for Johnny Football last season.
No, I’m not voting for Famous Jameis.
Why? It’s complicated.
Winners of the Heisman Trophy are supposed to have outstanding character in addition to being a great football player. Winston has measured up on the field — he’s a great college quarterback — but off the field he’s had to deal with allegations over the past few weeks that he raped another FSU student last December.
Criminally, that matter was resolved Thursday when state attorney Willie Meggs announced his office would not bring charges against him because of the woman’s sketchy memory from that night of drinking at a popular college bar.
What she does remember is having sex, and insists it was against her will.
As is his constitutional right, Winston hasn’t said anything about that night. He did, however, issue a statement Thursday after learning he wouldn’t be charged, saying he “never lost faith in the truth and in who I am.”
From the outset, this was going to be a “he said, she said” case. DNA evidence proved Winston and the woman had sex, but his attorney argued that it was between consenting adults.
Affidavits from two of Winston’s friends also alleged the sexual acts were consensual. It seems they were standing outside Winston’s bedroom door watching. According to their statements, one of them even used his cellphone to take video, though it had been conveniently deleted by the time Tallahassee police fully investigated the case.
The TPD complicated the case from the get-go. DNA wasn’t collected from Winston until a few weeks ago after the rape allegations had gained traction in the national media. And the woman’s attorney said at least one investigating officer warned her client that pressing charges against Winston would make her life miserable because Tallahassee is a “big football town.”
Since the story went public, the alleged victim has left school and returned to the Tampa area. Her life did become miserable. Her photo was distributed on social media sites.
She certainly no longer could have felt welcome on campus — not with all the high fives and hugs after Thursday’s announcement.
FSU senior Katie Gibbs told The Associated Press, “We always knew that he’s innocent because we know Jameis and we trust our quarterback,”
So, yeah, Tallahassee is a big football town. And, no, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I was the sports editor in Tallahassee for eight years, beginning in 1999 when FSU had it’s last unbeaten team and won a national title. There was also good and bad news to report that season, though nothing as serious as the Winston allegations.
In 1999, Peter Warrick lost his shot at the Heisman because of a felony shoplifting charge that was later reduced to a misdemeanor. He had to settle for hoisting the crystal football and an NFL career.
Winston likely won’t have to miss out on the Heisman experience.
However, Winston’s character has been tainted, and not only because of the sexual assault allegations. Reading the reports released by Meggs’ office, a statement from one of Winston’s friends suggests that lots of sexual shenanigans have taken place at his apartment.
Viewed as a character reference, its all fairly damning. And let’s not forget that Winston could still face a civil lawsuit. The alleged victim has three years to consider going that route.
On the field, he’s been the last one standing in a competition that once included Manziel, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois and South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney (remember him?).
Off the field, Winston has left me with reasonable doubt about his maturity, his decision-making and his character. And, yes, his lack of respect for women.
Thus, when I cast my Heisman ballot ranking the three most deserving candidates, his name won’t be included — not this year.