Now that the punishment is over, which way was it again to the Heisman Trophy?
Which way to the national championship?
Which way to maturity?
Jameis Winston has done his time, and order has been restored. Why, Winston sat out both halves of the Clemson game Saturday, which in college football amounts to hard time. Now, his world has been set right, and unless the coaching staff is informed that his suspension will increase once again, Winston can proceed with playing quarterback for the FSU Seminoles.
The question, once again, is what Winston has learned along the way.
Will he grow up this time? Or are there more headlines to come?
With Winston, that question never seems to go away. No one ever asks about his arm strength or his play-making ability, his feet or his eyes or his strength. Winston answered all of that some time ago, He is, we all agree, a dazzling football player.
For a long time now, the nagging thing with Winston has been this: He doesn't get it. Winston is as eaten up with entitlement as any college player has been in a very long time.
In every scandal Winston has had, from the serious to the silly, a sense of privilege has been at the core of it. From the rape accusations — Winston said it was consensual sex — to walking out of a grocery store with $32 worth of crab legs to standing on a table and yelling vulgarities about women and not telling the truth about it, Winston has shown little regard for who he is, for what he represents, for what actions are tugging at him. Even at 20, Winston should be far more mature than that.
Will this teach him? For the first time, FSU's football team took playing time away from Winston because of his latest controversy. He had to sit and watch someone else play his position. He had to watch teammates almost lose because of it.
This time, you hope that Winston got the message.
This time, you hope he grew up.
Oh, unless you cheer for another jersey, you probably want to like Winston. He has an easy smile, and he'll joke around, and he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. He is undefeated in both football games and interviews. He's a gifted athlete, and a fierce competitor, and his focus is unshakable.
Yeah, the kid has plenty of charisma. You want to admire him. You want believe in him.
Despite it all, however, there is a part of Winston that seems to believe he lives in a world where there are no consequences, a world filled with fans and enablers who are ready to argue his side of whatever the latest snarl may be. If Winston does not learn better, it may be his undoing.
These days, Winston is the face of the program. It isn't asking too much that, in return for the fame, he realizes he has a responsibility to the university, to the program, to the sport.
This, of course, seems the smallest of Winston's controversies. Nevertheless, this is an important time for him. The critics will never go away, but even Winston's apologists have to be growing tired of their role. Is it too much to ask that the most popular guy on the FSU campus act as if he has some responsibility for the way he acts? Is it too much to ask that the controversies die down for a while?
No, standing on a table and shouting out an obscene phrase that demeans women isn't the most heinous crime ever perpetrated by a college athlete. If it wasn't for his continued presence in headlines, it probably wouldn't have led to a suspension.
But a man who has been accused of rape, who still has a Title IX investigation going on because of it, should be the last guy to take part. Isn't there some governor on him that suggests that this isn't the smartest idea? Doesn't he have an internal mute button?
Look, Winston is the quarterback. And a quarterback is a quarterback all of the time. Ask Charlie Ward. Ask Tim Tebow. Ask Peyton Manning. Ask Joe Montana. Ask Roger Staubach. There is a way a quarterback is supposed to carry himself, because he means so much to so many. Winston still has to learn that, too.
It was good that FSU sat him for a game. Sure, you can quibble that Winston was suspended, and then re-suspended. You can wonder how much of a part the coaching staff played in his punishment. You can guffaw that Winston still came out in pads, supposedly because of an equipment man's error.
But at least FSU suspended him. At least it tried to get his attention. It's a start.
What happens the next time that Winston has a chance to use poor judgment, however?
What happens the next time an inner voice suggests the rules don't apply to him?
What happens the next time a controversy opens its arms?
There are a lot of college football players out there who seem to live with the rules just fine. There are a lot of students who resist controversies.
Is it too much to ask that Winston is one of them?