There wasn’t much failure on the way to becoming the third Seminoles quarterback to win the Heisman. The last was Chris Weinke in 2000.
Winston and Florida State were cruising toward an undefeated season when news broke of an unresolved sexual assault complaint against him made to the Tallahassee Police Department last December.
The dormant case was handed over to the state attorney’s office for a full investigation. A female student at Florida State accused Winston of rape. Winston’s attorney said the sex was consensual.
During three weeks of uncertainty, Winston continued to play sensationally, while other contenders stumbled or failed to distinguish themselves. If voters were looking to Manziel or McCarron or Lynch or Williams or even Marcus Mariota of Oregon to give them a good alternative to Winston, it didn’t happen.
The Heisman Trust mission statement says: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
It’s a statement that has put the Heisman in awkward situations before. In 2010, Cam Newton played the season under the cloud of an NCAA investigation. He had also had legal troubles while in college. But like Winston, there was no doubt he was the best player and he won the award.
Reggie Bush had his 2005 Heisman stripped after the NCAA determined he had violated its rules during that season. But the Heisman trust did not ask Billy Cannon and O.J. Simpson to return their Heismans after they were sent to prison.
The accusations against Winston were serious and documents released by the police with the accuser’s allegations were not flattering to him. It probably explains why so many voters left him out of their top three. Last year, Manziel appeared on 92 percent of the ballots. Winston appeared on 87 percent this year.
“Everyone has their own opinion,” Winston said. “It’s basically a numbers game and I was blessed to have the majority vote.”
There was no doubting his on-the-field credentials. Winston is on pace (190.1) to break Russell Wilson’s record for best passer efficiency rating in a season and set FBS freshman records for yards passing (3,820) and touchdown passes (38). Florida State’s average margin of victory is 42 points, and Winston has spent most of the Seminoles’ fourth quarters resting.
The investigation has taken some of the shine off Winston’s Heisman coronation, at least for some people. But if the question is simply who was college football’s best player in 2013, Famous Jameis was the clear answer.