Winston backs up 'legend' status

April, 13, 2013
4/13/13
7:42
PM ET
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jameis Winston had already reached cult status before he arrived at Florida State, but for the past year, the legend has been glimpsed only from afar, burnished by tall tales from secondhand sources and, of course, the occasional YouTube video of the highly touted quarterback chucking footballs over fraternity houses.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston drew oohs and aahs from the crowd with his two touchdown passes.
But Saturday's spring game at Florida State was different. The legend took the stage in front of fans for the first time, and Winston didn't disappoint.

On his first play from scrimmage -- just a few seconds into the second quarter -- Winston found walk-on receiver David Tyrell for a 58-yard touchdown pass, the first of three scoring drives he'd lead the No. 1 offense on in the game. It was a show-stopping debut on the big stage and also an emphatic exclamation point on a spring that vaunted the redshirt freshman to the forefront of FSU's quarterback competition.

"You have no choice but to see the talent and the uniqueness he has," said cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, who was beat twice on touchdown throws by Winston on Saturday.

Jimbo Fisher still isn't naming a starting quarterback. In fact, he didn't so much as reshuffle the depth chart in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's spring game, but it's impossible to ignore what Winston is capable of becoming if he's given the opportunity.

In all, Winston finished the day having completed 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and he might have scored a third on the ground had referees not blown an early whistle on a scramble to avoid any significant contact from defenders.

Winston's day ended a bit early, too. He wasn't on the field during the latter half of the fourth quarter, but he still managed to add to the legend by quickly changing clothes and darting across the parking lot to join the baseball team for Saturday night's game against Duke.

Winston's presence, his personality and his potential make him the center of attention regardless of whether Fisher is ready to name him the starter.

"You keep him realistic, tell him what's real and what's not real, and you let everybody else be legends and hype," Fisher said. "Let's let the guy play."

At this point, that's what most fans are asking for.

It's not that one glorified scrimmage will determine the outcome of FSU's four-pronged quarterback battle, nor did Winston's competition struggle mightily Saturday. It's just that the tantalizing potential Winston displays might overwhelm everything else.

Winston split time with Clint Trickett going against the No. 1 defense for most of the day. Trickett was just 10-of-16 for 98 yards and an interception before switching squads and showing some life with the No. 2 unit, where he was 12-of-16 for 161 yards and a touchdown.

"Up and down, a little inconsistent trying to force things and make plays that aren't there," Trickett said of his own performance. "Trying to put on a little bit of a show for the fans when you just need to be playing football."

Jacob Coker struggled at times, too, completing 15 of 26 passes for 186 yards, a touchdown and two late interceptions. He was frustrated after the game, lamenting his struggles in the final stretch of playing time, largely against the first-team defense.

But if Trickett and Coker failed to make the most of their time in the spotlight, Winston thrived in it.

He entered the game with a few nerves, he said, but teammates quickly relaxed him, and the rest came easily.

"I got in the huddle, I got in my happy place, and I said, 'Let's do it,'" he said.

Joyner assumed there'd be some nerves, too, and he gave ample cushion to his receiver on Winston's first play. That was a mistake.

"It was good to see him complete that pass," Joyner said. "You see a guy lollygagging, giving room, and you make that play. That was a great throw, a precise throw, right on the money."

The second touchdown throw didn't come with such an ample window.

Joyner had Rashad Greene blanketed down the far sideline, but Winston zipped a back-shoulder throw in a perfect spot. Greene made the catch and scampered into the end zone for the score, and Joyner again tipped his cap to the rookie quarterback.

Both throws were impressive, and Fisher said he was pleased with Winston's presence in the huddle.

It wasn't enough to earn Winston an official endorsement for the starting job, and that competition might well play out well into fall camp. But it was a performance worthy of the legend, and it's easy to believe there will be many more to come.

"He came in and took advantage of the opportunity," Fisher said. "You can't say you've got ability. You have to go make plays, and he's done a nice job of making plays. I thought he stepped up and played very nicely."

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