Offensive Player of the Year: FSU's Jameis Winston

For all the stories of failed five-star "can't-miss" kids and two-star guys who prove to be first-round talent, give the recruiting guys this: They were spot on about Jameis Winston.

The charismatic, 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman, who on Saturday night ran away with the Heisman Trophy by the seventh-largest margin in the 79 years of the award, wasted little time blossoming into a star for Florida State.

He started his college career in grand fashion on a Monday night in the prime-time spotlight by completing his first 11 passes at Pitt, en route to a 25-of-27 performance while the Noles soon vaulted from being preseason No. 11 to No. 1 with a BCS national title date with No. 2 Auburn in Pasadena next month.

With Winston as the triggerman, the Noles scored at least 37 points in every game and won all 13 games by at least 14 points. Since October, FSU has beaten opponents by an average score of 54-9.

Winston's own stats were eye-popping, especially for a first-year starter: 3,820 passing yards; 38 TDs, only 10 INTs, a spectacular 10.95-yard per attempt average. He also led the nation in passing efficiency (190.06). But it's his intangibles that have coaches and folks who have spent time with Winston raving.

"I can't explain and say enough how truly intelligent he is, how instinctive he is," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher replied when I asked him what quality impresses him most about Winston. "The game makes sense to him. He always wants to know why he's having success. If he throws a touchdown, he has to understand it so he can repeat it."

It also doesn't hurt that Winston is surrounded by arguably the most talented cast in college football. He has an experienced offensive line, perhaps the nation's top group of receivers, good backs and a ferocious defense that leads the nation in scoring defense (10.7 ppg allowed). FSU also is ranked No. 2 in the country in fewest yards per play allowed at 3.95. The Noles' D barely trails Michigan State (3.94) in that category. One college coach who faced FSU the past two seasons says this Noles squad is two touchdowns better than last year's version. But make no mistake who their on-field spark is.

Winston, also a baseball standout at FSU, has grown from being about 180 pounds last year to almost 230 now. He has also had to mature, especially in the wake of a sexual battery complaint from last winter that made headlines this fall. Last week, the State Attorney, after an investigation, concluded there was not enough evidence to file charges.

On Saturday, Winston said he had emerged from the situation a better person.

"My dad always told me, 'Jameis, good ain't never going to be good enough,' " Winston said. "It's never going to be good for all the people that probably look down on me and the people that's probably saying bad things. But, I mean, my innocence was proven. So this last month has made me, it's probably that humbling moment that you have in your life."

Exactly how this all has changed Winston -- a guy who described himself as goofy -- is in the way he has had to grow up, he said.

"One thing that Coach Fisher has always told me, especially through this process is: 'For you to be a man, the kid in you must die.' I believe that kid in me has died.

"I'm always going to have my personality. I'm always going to have my character. But I have to become a man."

One college player who is well-versed in being thrown into the spotlight almost overnight and probably knows better than almost anyone about what that can do to a 19-year-old has been impressed with how Winston is coping.

"To see him at such a young age and put his head down and focus on his teammates with where they are and where they're headed, I do give him a lot of credit for that with all the scrutiny and everything he's under," Johnny Manziel said of Winston. "I feel like he's done a tremendous job of focusing on his team and his family."

Next up for Winston and the Noles: Trying to end the SEC's run of seven consecutive BCS national titles. And there is some added significance for the Hueytown, Ala., native.

"I told my teammates from Florida, 'When y'all play against Florida and Miami, that's y'all's rivalry game. I know it's a team rivalry because y'all are playing against people you know, but when I play against a team from Alabama, I don't care if it's UAB or South Alabama, I know people there. That's my rivalry game.'

"That gives me the opportunity to show them, 'Hey, I left the state and now I want to get at you.' "

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