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Monday, June 13, 2011
Updated: June 16, 11:49 AM ET
Jameis Winston bleeds football

By Corey Long
ESPN Recruiting

Jameis Winston isn't comfortable in the spotlight unless he has on a helmet and shoulder pads.

On the field, his passion for the game flows from his fingertips and drips from his brow. There, he doesn't have to talk about the recruiting process. He doesn't have to explain why this school or that one. He doesn't have to address whether baseball -- a sport in which he's a five-tool outfielder/pitcher -- will throw a curve into his football career.

No, when Winston takes the field at Hueytown (Ala.) High School's Gilmore-Vines Stadium, he's merely a quarterback trying to figure out a way to win, albeit a very good quarterback.

Winston
Jameis Winston has great admiration for Peyton Manning because the Colts QB is 'never satisfied.'
Winston (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) is ranked second at his position by ESPNU and the No. 15 overall player in the country. After eliminating Ohio State recently, Winston has trimmed his list of suitors to Alabama, FSU, Mississippi State, LSU, Vanderbilt, Stanford and UCLA.

The problem for all of those schools isn't just each other. Baseball is a real possibility. Winston hit .424 with seven homers and 15 doubles in his junior season. He was also 8-3 on the mound with 92 strikeouts. It's hardly a stretch to believe he'll be taken early in the 2012 baseball draft, maybe even in the first round.

Most of the college football coaches Winston meets try to be accommodating.

"They usually introduce me to the baseball coaches and hope I hit it off with them," Winston said.

Maybe baseball is in Winston's future, but don't question his love of football. As it turns out, he's not too bad on the gridiron, either. He threw for more than 2,300 yards and rushed for another 800 while producing 28 touchdowns.

He also talks about his running back at Hueytown surpassing 1,500 yards last season and defers many of his football accomplishments to his teammates. One of his favorite things about football is enjoying success with his teammates.

"Football is my passion. I love baseball, too, but football is my true love," Winston said. "In baseball all eyes are on you. If you make an error in baseball, everyone sees you make that error.

"Football is more team-oriented and in that sense it's like a family. Your success is based as much on your relationship with your teammates as it is with what you do individually."

But Winston isn't just part of a team. He concedes that things are a little different for the quarterback, but he is mature beyond his years on the field and he can take the pressure on and off the field.

"The quarterback is the most criticized position in all sports and it's also the most praised," Winston said. "When you're good, you're the best, and when you aren't, you are going to get criticized. My love for football allows me to take responsibility for everything that happens.

"When something goes wrong I can take it on my shoulders and when something goes right I can find something I should have done better. I don't want my team to take the blame. I can handle it. I want them to have the praise."

Winston watches a lot of quarterbacks. He loves Cam Newton's ability to carry his team through the finish line. He loves the way Tom Brady manages games. And he loves the way Peyton Manning competes.

"Peyton Manning is probably the best quarterback ever and nothing makes him happy," Winston said. "I mean he's never satisfied. When he wins, he wants to win more. When he throws a touchdown, he is beating himself up over missing a read the play before. That's why he's been the best for a number of years."

Winston obviously knows how to pick quarterbacks upon whom to model his game. He's sure to put in the time to pick the right school, too. He had plans to visit all of his final seven over the summer, but recently Alabama and FSU have been getting most of the face time.

"I'm from Alabama and I've been to Tuscaloosa more than anywhere else," Winston said. "Most of the time when I am down there I am around people I know, so there's that feeling of home.

"Then again, I want to get away from home sometimes. You can feel a bit smothered being so close to home."

When asked about the Seminoles, Winston starts in a thought and quickly stops himself.

"These questions … I guess I just want to take it slow," Winston said.

And then he continues but takes the question in a different direction.

"Beyond the program at FSU, I really like the girls," he joked. "Yeah, I definitely like the girls there."

When it's time for the mood to lighten up a bit, Winston is there with a joke or a funny comment.

"I'm generally a laid-back guy, I love to joke around," he said. "Sometimes people are surprised that I'm a jokester or a little laid back, but I like to laugh just like everyone else."

Winston makes it sound as though his life is idyllic in Hueytown (population around 16,000). While he's the center of attention at nearly every football camp he attends, he moves surprisingly anonymously through his hometown.

"I can walk down the street and help a lady with her shopping bags or whatever and she won't even know who I am," Winston said. "It's nice here. When I'm at a camp or whatever, everyone knows me, but here I can just be Jameis."

Jameis also loves cartoons. While most of his teammates escape in video games or their iPods, Winston prefers "Phineas and Ferb." He admits to watching the show for hours if he can. "SpongeBob SquarePants" will do just as well, or even "Scooby-Doo."

"'Phineas and Ferb' is probably one of my favorite shows of all time," Winston said. "I'm just happy watching it, and I'll drop everything if it's on. I love cartoons. I can play video games a little bit, but I love the cartoons. It's a good escape to sit there and laugh without hearing everything around you."

Without hearing everything around you. No recruiting talk. No baseball questions. Merely a quarterback, focused on what's next.