Roots of Winston's 2013 legend trace back to win over Maryland

Roots of Winston's 2013 legend trace back to win over Maryland
January 7, 2014, 9:00 am
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Terps drop Military Bowl, still finish winning season

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston stood on stage at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., a red rose tucked into the right side of his fresh-from-the-box national championship hat and a smile stretched across his face.

The Heisman-winning freshman quarterback was soaking in the moment on national television after he led his Seminoles to a thrilling come-from-behind 34-31 win over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night.

Winston spoke into the microphone with the energy and infectiousness of a pastor who is completely enveloped in his work, with some sort of charm that forced you to listen although this ceremony was like every ceremony in every year that had preceded it.

It was as if we should have seen something like this coming months ago, perhaps even as far back as early October when Winston and the Seminoles thrashed Maryland, 63-0, in Tallahassee to begin ACC play for the Terrapins.

Winston was sensational in that game, throwing for 393 yards and five touchdowns on 23-of-32 passing.

The disastrous afternoon for Maryland and the magic for Winston and the Seminoles could be summed up in one play, a broken scramble in the third quarter that appeared to have the freshman trapped, only to see him dip and dodge tacklers like world-class boxer, escape from the pocket, and throw a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick O’Leary over a defender in the back corner of the end zone.

[RELATED: Former Maryland OC James Franklin to interview for NFL job]

But could we have known at that point what would come of Winston and the 2013 Seminoles? Remember, that was a Top 25 matchup. But at the same time, this was the ACC, not the SEC, right? The Seminoles to that point had toyed with Pittsburgh, Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, and Boston College.

Week after week it was the same, though. Winston would throw for 300 yards and the Seminoles would win by double digits. In fact, the deficit they faced in Monday’s national championship game was the first time the Seminoles had trailed since that Sept. 28 win over Boston College.

Three whole months.

The story of Winston in 2013, of course, is more complex than that and the details surrounding his season off the field are as much a part of his season as what happened on Saturdays. Accusations of sexual assault against him were made public but he was never charged by police, as his football season marched on through the investigation and the media speculation and the scrutiny that followed.

But from strictly a football perspective, Winston put together the finest and most complete season by a freshman ever, topping Johnny Manziel’s Heisman-winning performance from a season ago simply by virtue of the national championship ring that he’ll wear on his finger for the remainder of his playing days and beyond.

And maybe we should have known when no Terrapin could bring down the 6-4, 228-pound native of Alabama on that balmy day in Tallahassee. Maybe we should have known that he would end up there in Pasadena with a rose tucked into his hat, but we just didn’t believe it yet.

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