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Bucs fans celebrate drafting of Jameis Winston No. 1

Bucs coach Lovie Smith, at a news conference after the selection of Jameis Winston No. 1, says the quarterback “stood out” along every step of the evaluation process. Asked if Winston is his starter, Smith says, “We have a little bit of time before we have to make that official.”
Bucs coach Lovie Smith, at a news conference after the selection of Jameis Winston No. 1, says the quarterback “stood out” along every step of the evaluation process. Asked if Winston is his starter, Smith says, “We have a little bit of time before we have to make that official.”
Published May 15, 2015

TAMPA — If the custom-made $150 Jameis Winston Bucs jersey and the cardboard cutout of Winston's head weren't clear enough signs of who Adam Hoge wanted the Bucs to choose with the No. 1 overall draft pick Thursday night, he had something else to show you.

The Sarasota fan nicknamed "Buc Head" had shaved "Draft Jameis" into the back of his head.

"Why would I not?" Hoge said.

Hoge's method was attention-getting, but his message was nearly unanimous among what the Bucs said were about 20,000 people who flowed into Raymond James Stadium for their draft party.

When commissioner Roger Goodell announced Winston's name as the Bucs' choice shortly after 8 p.m., fans glued to the NFL Network feed at the stadium erupted in cheers. St. Petersburg's Cody Williams rolled out a banner with the hashtag #DraftJameis, which he began using at the end of the Bucs' 2-14 season.

"Jameis Winston's coming to Tampa to do big things," Williams said.

Many Bucs fans have already seen what Winston can do. He won a Heisman Trophy and finished 26-1 as the starting quarterback at Florida State the past two seasons. Some people showed up to the draft party sporting the Seminoles' garnet and gold colors, and several Seminole war chants broke out before and after Winston became the first player in school history chosen No. 1 overall.

George Hathaway of Tampa customized a Winston jersey two months ago by recycling an old No. 5 Bucs jersey of Josh Freeman, the last quarterback the team chose in the first round, in 2009. No. 5 was Winston's number at FSU. He'll wear 3 with the Bucs.

"He's a winner," Hathaway said. "I think that's what they need in the clubhouse."

Orlando's Jason Fleming has been convinced of that for months. Midway through the Bucs' struggles last season, Fleming made as a joke a poster that said: It's a steal: Draft crab legs. The sign referenced Winston's citation for shoplifting seafood from a Tallahassee Publix last year. Fleming said he's not worried about Winston's character. Fleming even has two or three commercial ideas for Winston and the supermarket chain.

"This team is going to be completely turned around once they get Jameis," Fleming said.

None of the fans interviewed said they were concerned about Winston's off-the-field issues, including a 2012 rape accusation. Winston wasn't charged because of lack of evidence. He has maintained his innocence.

"As long as he has good mentors, I think he'll stay out of trouble," said Mary Williams of Temple Terrace.

Some fans had been clamoring for the Bucs to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Sarasota resident Tom Hedge spent $220 to customize a white Mariota No. 8 Bucs jersey online and wore it proudly Thursday.

"I was hoping that would be the pick," Hedge said, "but whatever's best for the team."

Winston's selection gave Bucs fans something to cheer about. "That's what we need," Hoge said. "I'm tired of losing."

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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