- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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It was an unseasonably cool July Fourth weekend in Hueytown, Alabama, and the town that hated Jameis Winston long before it was fashionable to do so had decided to throw him a party.
Jameis Winston Day festivities had been announced on Hueytown's Facebook pages and elicited nearly 200 comments ranging from overt racism to impassioned defenses, bitter name-calling and conspiratorial rebuttals that, hey, if Winston had just gone to Alabama or Auburn, he wouldn't be so reviled in his hometown. And, of course, there were jokes about crab legs.
But when Mayor Delor Baumann took the stage at midfield of Hueytown High's decrepit former stadium, the tone was far different. Everyone wanted to be Winston's friend.
The mayor offered a rambling story about buying pizzas for Winston's old high school team and mispronounced Winston's father's name. That gave way to a string of local politicians offering proclamations of Winston's greatness that sounded more like small-town stump speeches. One city councilman, a cousin of Winston's mother, talked about how his son bragged in school that he was related to the Heisman winner. He asked Winston to give his boy a shoutout, and the quarterback happily agreed, then whispered under his breath that he didn't know the kid's name.
After all the gushing concluded, Winston took the microphone and addressed a crowd of a few hundred people -- friends, relatives, neighbors and a handful of Florida State fans. He had a speech he wanted to give about confidence, work ethic and determination in the face of criticism, but he opened by acknowledging the obvious.
"Y'all probably think you know me," Winston said. "But you don't."
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