TAMPA — Jameis Winston will look across the field Sunday afternoon and see a quarterback who won a Heisman Trophy and a national title in his first year as a starter in college, had his share of headlines for off-field issues but still went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Much like last year's Bucs, the Panthers went 2-14 in 2010 to earn the right to draft Cam Newton, who would go 6-10 as a rookie then lead them to a division title and a 12-4 record in his third season.
So any parallels you'd like to make between the quarterbacks are fine by Bucs coach Lovie Smith.
"For a player like Jameis, seeing the guy he's going against on the other side, that has to get your blood flowing a little bit," Smith said Wednesday.
"(Newton) was a great player in college, and you knew it would transfer right into the league. … Both of them are great quarterbacks that are going to help their teams win a lot of games."
Winston, 21, said he has looked up to Newton, 26, and the two have had conversations, having taken similar paths to the No. 1 overall pick.
"I've talked to Cam numerous times — he's just a great person for me to look up to," Winston said. "I've kind of modeled my style after what he's been through. We basically have been through the same things, the Heisman, then going to the league. He's definitely a great person to try to seek things (from) to better myself."
Newton — still the seventh-youngest starting QB in the league — is barely old enough to be facing a younger version of himself, but he likes what he sees in Winston's first few games.
"The thing that myself as well as he had to learn is that it's a long process," Newton said. "The thing that he had that I also had was that determination of success and winning, but knowing you're coming into a league where you are going to the worst team, so it's a learning curve. … I'm a fan of his work."
This time four years ago, Newton was 1-2 as a rookie in Carolina on his way to a 2-8 start. He would finish with four wins in the final six games, and now he has two NFC South Division titles in his first four NFL seasons.
In Week 4 of his rookie year, Newton threw for 374 yards and a touchdown while rushing for two more scores in a close loss to the Bears, whose coach that day still has a healthy respect for him.
"I'm on record, I think Cam Newton is as good a quarterback as there is around," said Smith, who was on the sideline for Chicago in that 34-29 victory in 2011. "I think what he can do in the pocket … (he) is a challenge with his mobility, along with being able to throw the ball."
If there's one particular area of development Smith might want Winston to learn from Newton, it would be an appreciation for the value of limiting turnovers. In Newton's rookie year with Carolina, the Panthers went 6-0 when he committed zero turnovers and 0-10 when he had at least one.
Winston sees an infectious excitement that Newton spreads to his Panther teammates that he would like to emulate.
"He loves football. He (exudes) how blessed he is to be playing," Winston said. "He's a very enthusiastic person, so just bring energy to the field and be yourself."
Newton has been happy to pass along advice to Winston, but he also said there are things he can understand only by experiencing them himself — such as making the transition from winning nearly all the time in college to dealing with losses in the NFL.
"It's something you just have to learn," Newton said. "Jameis is 21, (and) I don't view life the same way at the age of 26. You feel like you are invincible. … There's more to an NFL team than just one player. … It's still taking time for me to learn, and he'll learn as well."
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.