Senior College Football Columnist

The curious Jameis Winston recruiting tale

At some point while Jameis Winston was carving up the Pitt defense and sending Twitter into a frenzy with his dazzling 25-of-27, five-touchdown performance Monday night, the story of the FSU QB's recruitment started to circulate. Well, specifically, that the former five-star recruit actually wanted to go to Texas, but the Longhorns never were interested in him.

"I'm an OU fan but I always wanted to go to Texas. If I'd gotten offer from Texas I'd be going to Texas right now" Winston was quoted as saying by ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Given the recent history of star QBs who either grew up dreaming of being Longhorn quarterbacks or were Texas natives bypassed by Mack Brown's staff -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel -- the story gained a lot of traction. And probably made a lot of Longhorn fans wince.

On Tuesday morning, a UT source contacted me to point out that Texas did contact Winston's coach, but didn't think the quarterback/baseball star was seriously interested in playing for the Longhorns.

Is that accurate? Revisionist history or just murky memories are often the case in the recruiting world, where there are often 10 sides to every story. Many times academics or character issues can be an unspoken reason why something did or didn't happen, but in Winston's case, neither would've factored into his recruitment. Winston was a 4.0 student, according to his high school coach.

About an hour after I heard from the Texas source, I spoke to Matt Scott, who was Winston's head coach in high school. He told me he called the UT football staff "four or five" times, and one time even spoke to a woman at UT after he tried the main line to the Longhorns football office.

"I said, 'I know you get this call every single day. But lemme tell you, I've got a guy some think is the No. 1 quarterback in the nation. Let me help you. You're gonna want to get this message to the right folks. He's interested in your school,' " Scott recalled telling her.

"She said, 'O.K., I've got it.' "

But Winston nor Scott ever heard from Texas. Scott said it's possible Winston's recruitment got muddled in the transition of Texas going from Greg Davis as UT's outgoing offensive coordinator to Bryan Harsin, who was hired from Boise State in January, 2011.

Told that someone at UT said the staff did reach out to Winston's coach but didn't believe the dual-threat quarterback was "seriously interested" in Texas, Scott said he never heard from them.

"I can tell you this: They didn't call me, and I was on the front line," Scott said. "His dad made it clear he wanted Jameis and I to handle it. I can promise you, they didn't call me and I called them multiple times. And it's hard for me to believe that one of the nation's top programs is gonna concede, 'Well, we're not going to get this guy.'"

Scott said he and the younger Winston were very organized in their recruiting process. "He's a planner and I'm a planner too. We had people knocking the door down 'round the clock (to try and recruit Winston.) After his sophomore year, we sent out 20 DVDs -- Ohio State, Miami, as soon as they got it, they offered. I put a DVD in the mail on a Friday, and I don't know how this happened but I think they called me Sunday night.

The coach said Winston was very interested in Texas.

"I'm telling you they'd have been in the top two or three for sure," the coach said of the Longhorns. "He knew they had great programs in baseball and football. The baseball is just important as the football. He researched it. He's not a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants guy. He wants to be a podiatrist and when Miami recruited him, he'd look up all this stuff and show me about their medical program.

"How'd he end up at Florida State? They had a great program in baseball and football, and because he knew that Jimbo Fisher and Mike Martin have a great relationship and there wouldn't be a problem playing both.

"Bottom line, that [Texas] was the only school that he wanted to check out and they weren't interested in him."

 
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