Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FSU's Winston hopes to be two-sport star

TAMPA — As Frank Sinatra's New York, New York played from the Steinbrenner Field loudspeakers Tuesday afternoon, Jameis Winston stayed in the visitor's dugout for his encore.

Fans yelled his name and squeezed their arms through a rail to offer baseballs, footballs, hats and Sports Illustrated covers for Winston to sign.

It mattered little that Winston, Florida State's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, had gone 0-for-2 as a fifth-inning defensive replacement in an 8-3 exhibition loss to the Yankees. In the same stadium where Hall of Fame big-leaguers have trained, Winston was by far the biggest star. The loudest ovation of the day, from the pro-FSU crowd of 7,708, came when Winston broke his bat on a foul ball in the sixth inning.

"We laughed," FSU outfielder DJ Stewart said. "We joke around with him all the time: 'Jameis, you can do whatever and everyone will cheer for you.' "

Winston, a 20-year-old sophomore, says he was the one star-struck. Winston, who was born in Bessemer, Ala., and raised in neighboring Hueytown, said he grew up a Yankees fan idolizing captain Derek Jeter, playing shortstop and wearing No. 2. While most of the Yankee regulars didn't start — Brett Gardner was the top name — Winston met "Mr. Jeter," along with Mark Teixeira and the retired Jorge Posada beforehand.

"It's surreal," Winston said. "It's probably better than winning the national championship.

"Psych!"

It has been just 50 days since Winston's dramatic touchdown drive in Pasadena led FSU to a 34-31 win over Auburn. He had little time to celebrate, transitioning immediately into his baseball role as closer and outfielder. Winston has a passion for both sports and wants to play both "as long as I can," realizing times have changed since Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders became pioneers in being two-sport professionals.

"I always had the mentality, 'You can do anything you put your mind to,' " said Winston, who was drafted in the 15th round by the Rangers in 2012. "So I just kept that dream going and I'm going to keep doing it for the rest of my life."

And Seminoles baseball coach Mike Martin, who also coached Sanders — the Hall of Fame cornerback — believes Winston is "certainly capable" of doing it.

"Deion was one of a kind," Martin said. "But Jaboo is one of a kind."

Winston may be "Famous Jameis" to many, but he's "just one of us," left-hander Brandon Leibrandt said. Martin calls Winston "Jaboo" (Jay-Boo), a childhood nickname, saying he never acts like he's the "main attraction." No Seminole player has garnered as much attention in Martin's 35 seasons, not even Giants MVP catcher Buster Posey. While Winston loves big crowds — "it's my fuel" — he deflects praise to teammates, who rib him often.

"He's a superstar on the baseball field, a superstar on the football field," Stewart said. "But you'll never know it the way he acts. He acts like a normal guy."

When it comes to talent and athleticism, Winston is far from the norm.

"A rare breed," junior right-hander Luke Weaver said.

"A freak of nature," Leibrandt said.

While Winston admittedly needs to work on his hitting — the switch-hitter grounded out to second and struck out looking in his two at-bats Tuesday — Martin believes he can develop into a pro pitcher. The hard-throwing right-hander went 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 27 innings as a freshman. "He's got a big-league arm," Stewart said. "He's got big-league stuff."

In an era in which specialization is the norm, and coaches tug over the top athletes, FSU football coach Jimbo Fisher says his relationship and cooperation with Martin are critical in Winston's balancing act. Fisher, who accepted a baseball scholarship at Clemson before playing football at Samford, said he loves two-sport players, believing there's a cross-benefit of playing baseball and football.

Like Fisher, Winston says baseball teaches him about failure, how to bounce back, a key trait in a quarterback. Fisher says Winston doesn't miss any spring football practices, and on their days off on Sundays, he'll notice him hitting for two hours in the batting cage. "It's not like where he plays one and forgets the other," Fisher said.

While Winston has the work ethic, time-management skills and body makeup to withstand the demands of both sports, Fisher said what separates his quarterback is his intelligence, helping him process information quickly. "He wants to be the best," Fisher said.

Winston said the best part about being "famous" is meeting great people, which keeps him humble. Much like the fans he signs autographs for, he's often speechless in those encounters. He has chatted with Sanders and Jackson and has now shaken hands with childhood favorites Ken Griffey and Jeter.

Winston smiled: "I feel like my life is complete."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

FSU's Winston hopes to be two-sport star 02/25/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 10:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Offense shows signs of waking up in win over Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The drought was so severe that it's still probably too soon to say the Rays are out of it, but scoring a half-dozen runs in Tuesday's 6-5 win over the Blue Jays was another promising sign.

    Corey Dickerson high-fives Wilson Ramos after hitting a solo home run in the third inning, putting the Rays up 2-1.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    C Wilson Ramos, coming off right knee surgery, often takes it easy on the bases, though it's not always a good look. But he hustled when he needed to Tuesday and got the Rays a run by beating out a two-out infield single, finishing with three more hits.

  3. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  4. Rays vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Blue Jays

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman laughs after Houston Astros' Carlos Beltran reached first on an infield single during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
  5. 'Hard Knocks' star Riley Bullough still not a lock for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Bucs undrafted rookie LB Riley Bullough is perhaps the surprise star of HBO's Hard Knocks and has been productive in two preseason games, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Tuesday that he's caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster.

    Riley Bullough has made a good impression on Hard Knocks and on coach Dirk Koetter, but he isn’t guaranteed a job.