By Rick Stroud
Times Staff Writer
TAMPA ― Jameis Winston admits this is a big year for him and the Bucs. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him $20.9-million and is beginning the season with Bruce Arians, his third head coach and someone he has known since his freshman year of high school.
But the fifth-year quarterback insists he isn’t the same guy who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He has a eight-month old son with his fiancee, Breion Allen and says he has grown spiritually.
During a revealing interview with Jason Romano on the Sports Spectrum podcast, Winston talked about his faith, family and football that is transcribed below.
On his history with Bruce Arians
“It’s been a blessing to have that confirmation from your head coach and it’s also a blessing just to see how things come around full circle. I met coach Arians about 11 years ago, probably around this time just doing camps and actually was a member of one of his camps and I met him at that camp and learned a lot of different things. But he gave me the opportunity to put on his Super Bowl ring and that really inspired to really go after being a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and go after to being an NFL quarterback, especially at that time when I was a freshman in high school. And to get a chance to now be coached by the same man that gave me a huge inspiration, and we get to chase that Super Bowl together. It’s unreal.
On Arians having his back since the introductory press conference
“Yeah, anytime you show a level of confidence in a player it allows you to work together and allows things to flow properly. I love him for doing that and I’m just excited to work with him. I’m excited to get back out there on the field. Again, what he has meant to my football career is really indescribable, so it’s going to be something that’s fun. It’s going to be real fun.
On what he’s doing to prepare in the off-season
“This being my fifth year, I’ve gotten into a nice plan that I use for my workout regimen. But yeah, I pick up the ball and I toss it around a little bit. But I’ve learned from numerous quarterbacks and picked up some different things about how they treat their arm and how some of them have a pitch count and things like that, so just as far as maintenance, knowing when to peek at the right time. But I have my personal trainer, who made the connection with me and coach Bruce because he and Bruce’s son went to school together at UAB. So man, it’s crazy how things come around full circle again. We’re working. There’s really no off-season really, man. We’re trying to chase dreams and create opportunities for my family and everybody else’s family.
On having a man of faith in quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen
“Absolutely, man. Just to hear his story on how he grew up, hear his testimony, hear his walk with the Lord is phenomenal and that is something I really admire about him. He really gets really deep. One thing, a previous conversation that I had relating to him, a couple of days ago, and after we just talked briefly, he asked me, tell me something you’re learning spiritually. Tell me something that’s deeper than ball. I’m just like, “Coach, we haven’t even talked about football, yet.’ And he’s actually trying to get to know where I am with my walk and you know how he can help lead me from that way and that’s comforting when you have a man of Christ like that and I’m excited to work with him as well.
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On how his walk with Christ began
“Well, traditionally, how I grew up, I grew up in the Baptist Church, always going to church every Sunday, Sunday school, vacation Bible school. Did everything. Just being around my grandmother. My mother was the youngest of 11 kids and I grew up in her family’s household. I was blessed to have my dad in my life and his family lived right down the street from the church. I just kind of grew up in that traditional faith. I knew I was saved by Jesus Christ and I knew who my Lord and Savior was. I knew basically all the stories, you know, Jonah and the Whale and Moses parting the Red Sea. I knew all those stories just from my basic education. But my last year at Florida State, a guy by the name of R.V. Brown had come to Florida State. He was actually a native of Tampa. He’s a pretty big evangelist. He came to meet with me literally every Wednesday my last year at Florida State and I was a born again Christian in November of 2014.
“And just walking through the word with him and growing a new way. Because I got baptized when I was young. I was baptized when I was 8-9 years old. And then my first year in the NFL, that next year, I got baptized with my now fiancée in Colorado. I’ve been through ups and downs. But one thing about me. I always knew that my identity wasn’t in football. It wasn’t in baseball. I knew it’s always been in Christ and just my upbringing has always led me to have a tremendous faith that God was going to see me through and he would not give me too much that I couldn’t bear. So I’ve always had that solid foundation of who I really was. No matter who my parents were, or no matter who my father was, I knew who was my Savior was and I knew who I was in His Kingdom.
“That always just instilled in me a great confidence. But actually living by the Word instead of just knowing the Word has really been a great change in not only the way that I live but really the way that I carry myself. Just growing up, I always was a guy that wanted to be liked. That wanted to be like everyone else, not really understanding that the platform that I had was different than others. Not really understanding that God expects more from his leaders that he does from people who are not really committed to Him. But being raised with that foundation, I got to see really quickly that living the wrong way was not really working out for me. So having mentors in my life, like R.V. Brown, just two years ago, one of my friends that grew up around the corner from me, I hired him as my life coach to help me with my walk with Christ. It’s just been a blessing. I recently got engaged. Had my first son. And it kind of overshadows…once I had my son, it kind of gave me a new perspective on life because his birth, really overshadowed all the good and the bad. No matter about the accomplishments that I had in college, the accomplishments that I had in high school, or the adversity that I faced in college or the adversity that I faced in high school, his birth really just showed me a glimpse of what it meant for God to love us. Because he knows that we would never live up to His satisfaction. But He loves us no matter what, He is forgiving of us, his grace is so sufficient. And when I look at that boy, my son, he’s eight months now, when I look at him, I just see that he can’t love me back, but I love him with all my heart and it just gives me so much respect for my fiancée and I see the way she treats him and it just gave me a whole new perspective of love and it transitioned my walk from just knowing about the Word to actually living by the Word.
On practicing his faith in college
“You know, again, I did the traditional things. I was actually a member of church in Tallahassee called Jacob’s Chapel, the majority of Sundays after a game I attended church. I was an active member. I didn’t do many Bible studies, but we had an FCA program at Florida State that I was a consistent member there, too. But when R.V. Brown came down and just really mentored me, when I really got a chance to be a disciple, I really got to understand the bigger picture. Not just going to church as a checklist, or as something just to say I’m a follower of Christ, even though I knew that there’s no way I can be perfect, but I was giving myself an excuse. Just having somebody in my life to hold me accountable, not just form myself, but to please God. I remember he had read me, I think it was Galatians 1:10 and I think it was we’re not here to please man, we’re here to please God. Once I understood that, I knew that all the glitz and glamour, it really didn’t matter.
“Because I’m not doing this for them, I’m doing it for God’s pleasure. I’m not doing it for man’s pleasure or my own fame. So I had to understand that, so once I made that commitment in 2014, I knew that was just the beginning. That was the understanding. That was the beginning of the blessed I was drafted by Tampa Bay were R.V. lived. So I was able to continue to be mentored by him and spent some time with him.
My walk has just been, it’s been real. I don’t have this fabulous story how everything was washed away. I just have this real life walk. And I just love the perspective that I can’t explain the way it comes out.
On a lesson he has learned that he would pass to teammates
“One great lesson that I would just pass along to every young person out there or anybody that feels that they can handle everything by themselves, that feels all they need is themselves, their sheer will and their confidence, I would disagree with that. You need someone to accommodate you on the Walk.
“Your source has to be in God and not yourself or any other human being. God has to be your ultimate source. And you have to have somebody to go on that path with you. Because having somebody to really hold you accountable, having somebody to really pour their lives into you, it helps you understand that true perspective of discipleship and what a real friendship is.
“It just helps you on your walk. Initially, especially my first few years in the league, I was trying to do this thing by myself. At times, I worked hard for this, I did all the quarterback drills and all the things like that to get here. Shoot. But not realizing that, okay, God blessed me with this talent. I experienced different things growing up as a child that helped me. That helped mold me into the man that I am now, to the athlete that I am now. And through those experiences, being alone…Aneas Williams said something profound during the last conference, he said experience is the most expensive and foolish way to learn.
“And I was trying to use my experience. I’m going to live my life and eventually I’ll come around and not leaning on anybody else. Not having anybody else to have me be accountable. Just thinking it’s just me. Not realizing God is the source. He gave you all this. Everything you have is His. It’s not yours, boss.
“So, humble down. Yes, you worked hard. But he gave you the ability to do that. He gave you the opportunity to do that. And there were people in your life that helped to get you where you’re at now.
“And sometimes, that’s tough, Jason. When you felt, when you’ve been to that place when you were just alone and nobody was really for you, you can get that type of mentality and think like I am alone, I am doing it by myself. But when you have somebody accountable, that’s really asking you deep questions, that’s not afraid to challenge you and ask you the tough questions, that’s not afraid to correct you when you’re in the wrong. And you humble up and you listen to that person and you cherish their opinion or if you don’t agree with their opinion, take something from what they said and apply it to your day to day life. It will help.
On his relationship with teammates
“I think that’s so overlooked, especially in an NFL locker room. There’s such a crush of time that you can’t meet with your teammates and some Chaplains and people like that can’t even be in the building as often as they want to be. I’ve been blessed to be around great men like Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald…that helped me see kind of that model and helped me to know this is a safe place. You know, I remember last year, Gerald was running the Bible studies, and was like people are not coming to the Bible studies, we’re having them in this room, and I was like, “Gerald, hey let’s take it in the locker room. They can’t avoid us then. So we’re in the locker room, people are coming out of the shower, this that and the other, and we’re discussing the Book of James, and people are just tuning in. And they’re like, “Hold on now, this is what you’re doing in this room?’ Next thing you know, instead of just four people meeting, you have eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 people that are meeting and coming to your locker saying, ‘Look, I’m going through this. How would you handle this situation?’ I think really dealing with grown men will show that you are vulnerable and you don’t have all the answers, they feel more comfortable communicating with you as opposed to me walking around like I’m the bigshot or I have no flaws. I try to reach the rookies, the young guys that come in. When you have leaders like Gerald McCoy, and Clinton McDonald was there my first three years, but people that’s open to be challenged and want to see growth in everybody, it definitely makes it easier. But being the quarterback and not only being the quarterback on the field but also being that quarterback off the field is the mentality that I had to make sure that I was being that every single day.
On a piece of advice he would give young players
“The one piece of advice I would say is develop a routine and that routine is going to consist of everything you believe will help you. Because it’s really like, I don’t like using the term selfish, but you really have to be selfish with yourself in what you’re putting in your mind. When you’re a rookie, you have so many different avenues that are approaching you. You can do this and you can do that. This is the first time in your life that you’ve ever had more than $100,000. So you have so many ways you can go. But having a great routine, and following the things that are helping you. I always have this term. If it’s not making you money, then you don’t need to be doing it. But that’s just on the athletic side. That’s talking about recovery, that’s talking about preparation, that’s talking about work ethic, that’s talking about engaging with your teammates. But the same goals off the field, if you develop a routine and that routine consists of every morning, waking up, reading 15, 10-minutes every day reading the Bible. Reading 10 pages a day of a great book. Something that is helping you invest in yourself. Calling a family member that you haven’t talked to just to check on them during the week, just to help staying in touch with where you came from that loved you before all the fans and stuff loved you. And once you develop a routine that works, you’re setting yourself up for success. And I would tell them, do not live a life where you’re just reacting to stuff. Where you got a friend or a teammate that says, ‘We going to the club.’ If you just say, “Oh, I’m going to.’ Live a life where you’re really thinking and you can respond. Be present in everything. If you’re doing something where you can’t be present? Don’t concern yourself with that at all. Because you don’t want to really miss this window of opportunity that we really have. And I share this with the rookies, this is an opportunity of a lifetime so cherish every second. Because you’re really investing in yourself.
On this being a big year for him and the Bucs
“It is, because you don’t know when it’s over yet. You have to earn every stripe and sometimes the cards just don’t work out in your favor. So you have to be prepared for everything.
On what God is teaching him right now
“God is teaching me to really just take small increments towards Him every single day. One thing about Jesus. He’s always walking towards us because he wants to guide us. But all we have to do, we have to be willing to be vulnerable and take steps towards Him. So when I talk about leading my family, when I talk about my fiancée and my son, me taking small steps toward Christ has allowed me to be free from having to support my friends through their initiatives. Be free from having to respond to family members calling me and asking me for money. You know, because I’m not their source. I’m the head of my home. And I have to get my daily bread by chasing Christ. And as long as I’m chasing Christ every single step of the day, then I’m leading my family towards Christ. And if I can lead my family toward Christ, then I’m doing my thing. I’m going and creating more disciples in him. And I know my son is eight months now, but just him seeing me pray with his mom, and us sleep training him and him seeing me pray over him at night, he’s seeing this, he’s crying, but at least he’s witnessing this. It’s just really got me in a good place, man. That’s what God is teaching me, just take small steps toward him and rely on Him.