"There are those with immense talent and others with great passion. And then there are those who galvanize an entire organization. @jaboowins" — Tweet from Bucs director of player development Duke Preston.
TAMPA — Sure, sometimes it looks as if he has anvils for feet. He has thrown only six touchdowns and three interceptions in the past four weeks. And you wondered at times if anything could wipe off that cantaloupe grin. But when the season was about to fall like a bad souffle, Jameis Winston knew exactly what to do and what to say to pump belief back into the Buccaneers.
After Sunday night's 28-21 victory at San Diego, their fourth in a row to pull into a virtual tie with the Atlanta Falcons atop the NFC South at 7-5, coach Dirk Koetter stood in the middle of the visitor's locker room at Qualcomm Stadium, pressed his right index finger to his lips and reminded his team to be humble.
"Speak softly, but carry a big mother (expletive) stick," Koetter said.
The locker room exploded in laughter until Winston applied his unique brand of super glue and reminded his teammates to stick together.
"I love y'all," Winston said. "It all starts with family, baby. Let's make sure we keep that so we can go where we need to go! Family on three!"
Winston, remember, is only 22 years old. On the morning of the Chargers game, he should've been listening to the College Football Playoff selection show as the senior quarterback for Florida State, seeing where the Seminoles would be ranked.
"Leadership can take on many forms, but you also have to be able to back it up with your play," Koetter said. "Jameis has done that. He's got a unique style I would say to pro football. It's part of his youth. We've got to keep reminding ourselves he'd be a senior in college right now."
Preston, who tweeted his thoughts before the team charter landed in Tampa, is right. Winston is an immense talent. He plays with great passion. But it's the Bucs' second-year quarterback who has galvanized his football team.
At 1-3 and 3-5, the Bucs turnaround didn't look possible. They were the SOBs (Same Ol' Bucs).
But a month ago, Winston stood defiant at his weekly news conference and said, "I'm not a loser. We're winners in this building."
Then he backed it up. It's one thing to cheerlead harder than the team mascot, it's another to go out against Chicago, at Kansas City and Seattle and back it up. "Love is the reason for the fight," Winston said.
On Monday, Koetter agreed that Preston is on to something.
"I think there's definitely something to that. And there's different styles," Koetter said. "I'm sure Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger and we're seeing one of the best in Drew Brees this week, they all have their own styles."
Winston style, is, well, not what you see in pro football. The typewritten letter to teammates. Presenting a game ball to fans. Becoming more Family First than Tony Dungy.
But it wouldn't mean squat if he didn't back it up. Take Sunday's game for example. Two receivers went down. Doug Martin had nowhere to run. But against the blitz, Winston was 9-of-11 for 136 yards and a TD. He makes players around him better.
"It's refreshing. I've said many times if you didn't know better, it could come across almost as corny sometimes," Koetter said. "But when Jameis does it, it's not. If I said some of the stuff he did or some other quarterbacks I've been around … but that's Jameis. That's really who he is. That's who he is every day. After the players are around it, they're attracted to that. Because sometimes Jameis says things they wish they could say or wish they had it in them to say. And he backs it up."