How Jameis has become so famous

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
3:00
PM ET


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- He knew the nickname would stick, so there wasn't much sense fighting it. Maybe if his parents could have guessed at his future from the moment he entered the world, they would've picked a name less mnemonically agreeable for headline writers, but who could have predicted this?

Jameis Winston was still in Little League when he became "Famous Jameis." An assistant coach watched Winston dazzle on the field, and the moniker was born. Those who really know him still call him "Jaboo," the nickname his mother gave him as a baby, but each time he takes the stage in a new place, delivers another gasp-inducing escape act and unfurls another breathtaking throw, it's that other nickname that catches on.

"When people call me 'Famous Jameis,' I'm like, 'I'm not famous,'" Winston said. "Our team is famous. But that stuff comes with winning."

That's the right thing to say, of course, and Winston has said all the right things throughout his meteoric rise to national prominence these past seven weeks. But after one of the most impressive opening acts in recent college football history, there's no denying Winston's fame. At every turn, he has ratcheted up the hype with increasingly astonishing performances, and as he prepares for the biggest stage of his young career, any vestiges of tempered enthusiasm have been buried under a sea of unabashed optimism.

"This goes back to the best you've ever had -- that's the way I think people are looking at him," former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said of Winston. "This young man is as good as anybody we've ever had. Maybe as a freshman, that's asking too much, but before he leaves here -- and he might do it this year."

Bowden perfectly captures why Winston has galvanized fans so quickly. It's no longer about the hype surrounding a top recruit or the potential of a talented freshman. At every turn, Winston has exceeded even the most absurd expectations to a degree that setting limits on what might come next seems pointless.

Winston's career began on the prime-time stage against Pittsburgh amid massive hype. He delivered a debut for the ages, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and 4 touchdowns. Since then, he has racked up 13 more passing touchdowns, including at least four in every ACC game he has played, and he ranks among the top five quarterbacks in the nation in virtually every statistical category.

When Florida State's compliance department gathered for a meeting the day after the Pittsburgh game, the rising tide of popularity for the new quarterback was already a priority.

"We were like, 'Well, we probably need to start getting some cease-and-desist letters ready to go,'" said Jim Curry, FSU's associate athletic director in charge of compliance. "And sure enough, a couple days later, it started."

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