The Heisman Trophy Trust recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Jameis Winston winning the Heisman in 2013. Below is the article that was included in the 2023 Heisman Trophy Journal.
Jameis Winston grew up a small-town kid who exudes a small-town vibe. And years after he become the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, he still takes pride in where he came from.
He hails from Bessemer, Alabama, which has a population of about 26,000. While it’s not the smallest of “small towns” and is 16 miles southwest of Birmingham, it’s certainly no metropolis. A former mining and steelmaking center, it boasts the oldest restaurant in the state, The Bright Star. (We recommend the snapper).
Raised by his parents, Antonor and Loretta, Winston was an athletic kid who quickly excelled in both baseball and football. That was not unlike another Bessemer native and Heisman winner, Bo Jackson.
But unlike Jackson, Winston left the state when it came time for college.
Winston became a prep phenom at nearby Hueytown High, where he was rated by some as the best quarterback recruit in the country in 2012 while earning acclaim as a pitcher on the baseball team.
The pressure to stay in-state and sign with nearby Alabama or perhaps Auburn was real.
But despite growing up in the shadow of the Crimson Tide, some 40 miles away from Tuscaloosa, Winston eschewed the conventional choice and signed with Florida State.
Winston’s talents on the baseball field were enough to get him drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round out of high school. While he turned down the Rangers, his opportunity to play on the diamond for a great Seminoles baseball program also tipped the scales in FSU’s favor.
Winston redshirted as a 2012 true freshman behind senior quarterback EJ Manuel, who led the Seminoles to an ACC title en route to a 12-2 finish. A whopping 11 Seminoles were drafted off the 2012 team, including Manuel, who was taken 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills.
Manuel mentored Winston not only during their one season together in Tallahassee, but also after the older quarterback became a pro.
It helped a young Winston, who was taking a big step up in class.
Aside from the normal growing pains of winning the starting quarterback job — and the challenge of earning the trust of teammates as a redshirt freshman — Winston was also tasked with leading a team that was almost as inexperienced as he was.
Winston beat out a pair of underclassmen to earn the right to replace Manuel, which was a much-anticipated move. He had excelled in the spring and even threw a 58-yard touchdown pass on the first pass of FSU’s Spring Game. Fall camp was more of the same.
But no one predicted such a stellar start to his collegiate career. Ranked 11th, Florida State opened the season at Pittsburgh in a Monday night ACC match-up at Heinz Field and all Winston did was complete 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in front of a national audience. He completed his first 11 passes.
Heisman voters don’t make decisions in early September. But you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Everyone took notice.
Winston made his first home start against Nevada and while the Wolfpack trailed only by 10 at the half, the redshirt freshman keyed a third-quarter surge that put the game out of reach. He completed 15-of-18 passes and two scores and also registered a rushing touchdown for the second game in a row.
It was more of the same a week later as Florida State overwhelmed Bethune-Cookman, 54-6. Winston turned in a modest 148 passing yards and two scores in a game the Seminoles attacked mainly on the ground.
The Seminoles next traveled to Massachusetts to take on Boston College, where they beat the Eagles, 48-34, in what would be the closest game of the regular season. Winston completed 17-of-27 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns, helping Florida State overcome an early second-quarter two-touchdown deficit.
By the fifth game of his career, Winston’s freshman season was already being couched in terms of a “Heisman candidacy”. It was hard to describe it any other way after another huge performance against No. 25 Maryland as Florida State ransacked the previously unbeaten Terrapins, 63-0.
Winston set career bests with 393 yards passing and five touchdowns. That included a highlight reel play late in the third quarter when the 6-foot-4 freshman shed a Maryland lineman on his back to throw a 12-yard score.
Dominating Maryland at home was one thing. Taking No. 5 Florida State into Death Valley against No. 3 Clemson was another. But was it? The results looked awfully similar as Winston and the Seminoles dusted the Tigers, 51-14, the freshman re-setting his own personal-best with 444 yards passing (the most ever by an opponent at Clemson) while throwing for three scores and running in another.
Winston’s Heisman bonafides were skyrocketing, as were FSU’s BCS title-game hopes.
Some 400 former Seminole players were on hand for Florida State’s blowout home win against North Carolina State as the school honored longtime coach Bobby Bowden before the game. Bowden, who had retired four years prior, won two titles with the Seminoles and helped Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000) win Heisman Trophies.
The game was a measure of revenge for FSU, which was upset by the Wolfpack in 2012 on a last-second TD pass. It also provided quite the platform for Winston, who staged an in-person performance for Bowden and the hundreds of former Seminoles with 292 yards and three touchdowns — in barely more than one half of action.
Winston broke 300 yards for the fourth time in five games as Florida State knocked off another unbeaten in No. 7 Miami. The freshman threw two interceptions in the win, giving defenses across the country a measure of hope, albeit short-lived.
Second-ranked Florida State overwhelmed its next two opponents — Wake Forest and Syracuse — by the same score of 59-3 to move to 10-0. First, it was a road win as the Seminole defense intercepted six Demon Deacon passes and controlled the game, leaving Winston on cruise control. He passed for 159 yards and two scores in just over two quarters of play. A week later, he totaled 277 yards and two more scores.
With three games left to play, a berth in the BCS title game was squarely in sight and Winston was a clear frontrunner for the Heisman.
A Nov. 23 date against overmatched Idaho ended with an 80-14 score, including Winston’s 225 yards passing and four touchdowns in another two quarters of play.
The rivalry game against Florida was also one-sided as the Seminoles went into Gainesville and dispatched of the 4-8 Gators, 37-7. Winston, who was on the sidelines in 2012 when the Gators beat the Seminoles, threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns as Florida State completed the regular season at 12-0.
Before the ACC title game against Duke, Winston was named the ACC Player and Freshman of the Year. Against the No. 23 Blue Devils, he definitely looked the part, passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns while running for his fourth score as the Seminoles beat Duke, 45-7.
And with that, FSU punched its ticket to the BCS title game, the last before the College Football Playoff debuted in 2014. And just as decisively, Winston completed his case for the Heisman, setting FBS freshman records for passing yards (3,820) and touchdowns (38).
The voting was as drama-free as every game of the season. Winston became the 2013 Heisman winner — and its youngest at the time at 19 years and 342 days — with 668 first-place votes and 2,205 points overall. It was more than three times the total of second-place Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was third.
Florida State faced its stiffest competition of the season in the BCS title game against No. 2 Auburn at the Rose Bowl. But after a season of breezy wins, Winston showed he could lead the Seminoles under pressure, too.
“Famous Jameis” capped one of the greatest freshman seasons ever by leading Florida State on an 80-yard scoring drive in the game’s final minute, completing 6-of-7 passes for 77 yards, the final two the title-winning scoring strike to Kelvin Benjamin.
With the win, Winston became the eighth Heisman-winning quarterback to lead their team to a national title.
Winston followed up his Heisman-winning season with 3,907 passing yards and 25 touchdowns while leading FSU to a school-record 26-straight wins and a berth in the inaugural CFP. He finished his two-year career with a record of 26-1 as a starter, throwing for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns.
Despite the stellar season, Winston finished sixth in the 2014 Heisman balloting.
Winston declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and was drafted first overall by the Tampa Buccaneers, where he got off to a record-setting start to his career.
He became the first NFL player to throw for over 4,000 yards in his first two seasons in the league (2015 and 2016) and also became the youngest player to pass for both 3,000 and 4,000 yards in a season. By his third year, he became the second-youngest player to pass for over 10,000 yards.
He joined the New Orleans Saints in 2020, though injuries have hampered his tenure there. He entered the 2023 season with 21,840 career yards passing with 139 touchdown passes and 11 scores on the ground.
In 2022, Winston completed what he started as a true freshman in 2012, earning his bachelor’s degree from Florida State with a degree in sociology.
Off the field, Winston has been heavily involved in his Dream Forever Foundation, which seeks to help financially disadvantaged youth through a variety of ways.
Congratulations Jameis on your Heisman anniversary.