TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Winter of Winston continues for Florida State’s redshirt freshman quarterback.
Jameis Winston is The Associated Press national player of the year, adding to his cadre of postseason accolades. He’s this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, the Walter Camp national player of the year, the Davey O’Brien quarterback of the year and the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
Seminole football fans should send a thank you note to Florida State’s baseball program.
If not for coach Mike Martin Sr. and one of his assistants, Mike Martin Jr., Winston — a two-sport athlete — might not be preparing to lead the No.1-ranked Seminoles against No. 2 Auburn in the BCS championship game Jan. 6 with the opportunity to bring a third national title back to the Florida State campus.
When Winston won the Heisman he thanked the usual cast of family, coaches and teammates. Then there was the thanks to “Eleven” and “Meat.” Most of the country ignored the peculiar names, but Winston wouldn’t have attended Florida State without the warm relationship between football coach Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State baseball coaching staff. “Eleven” — otherwise known as baseball coach Martin Sr., who has led the program for 34 years, and “Meat” — Martin Jr.
Martin Jr. was on a recruiting trip to watch Winston during his junior year of high school when he called to let Fisher know. Fisher actually had tape of Winston on his desk at the time and decided to put it in. About 30 minutes later, Fisher called Martin Jr. back and said, “Don’t let him get away.”
Winston hit a game-winning home run that day.
“Jimbo Fisher deserves the credit for giving the young man the opportunity to display his talents in another sport,” Martin Sr. said.
Fisher covets players that come from diverse backgrounds where football wasn’t their only sport. He actively looks for athletes that play numerous positions on the football field and play different sports.
“It makes you a different kind of competitor,” Fisher said. “You learn to learn the different situations. Handle different pressures. Handle noise. Handle quiet. Different games are played in different ways and in different environments. … You’re constantly competing and you don’t get in that rut of you only get it once a year. I think when you’re getting it two and three different times of year, the more you’re in competitive situations, the more you find out about yourself. …
“Every time you compete you learn something about yourself. I think it’s very good for athletes to do. I wish more athletes were multi-sport guys than they are now.”
Just like the Heisman voting, Winston was a landslide winner in AP player of the year voting. He received 49 out of 56 votes cast by AP Top 25 college football poll voters.
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch received three votes. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron got two votes. Boston College running back Andre Williams and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard each received one vote.
Winston is the first Florida State player to win the award, which has been handed out since 1998, and the first from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Florida State and Winston continued to excel despite a sexual assault investigation that became public last month. The State Attorney’s Office announced that it would not press charges before the ACC championship game.
Bo Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner, was also a two-sport star from Winston’s hometown of Bessemer, Ala. The 19-year-old Winston said after the Heisman ceremony that he wants to better than Jackson. The Texas Rangers drafted Winston in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB draft, but he elected to go to school.
Winston will compete for the closer job for the No. 5-ranked Seminoles when baseball begins.
He has a fastball that reaches 93-95 miles per hour and throws a slider for strikes. Martin Sr. said there are no restrictions on the quarterback outside of the normal rest for pitchers. Winston is poised to become the sixth winner in Heisman history to play collegiate baseball after winning the award and the first since Jackson in 1986, according to STATS LLC.
Martin Sr. believes Winston could be the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft if he was to singularly focus on baseball, but the coach doesn’t want that. He sees Winston as a first-round pick in both baseball and football.
“I never want him to devote full time to baseball because then I would miss out on his talent in football,” Martin Sr. said. “He’s just one of those rare athletes that only come around once in a blue moon.”
Winston said baseball helped him “a lot with football because baseball is a failing game. As a quarterback you have to handle every situation the same.
“So when I throw a touchdown I’ll celebrate and whatnot but when I throw a pick I keep my head up and say my fault guys and move on and keep stuff going. Baseball helped me with that.”
Malzahn Coach of the Year
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Gus Malzahn inherited a demoralized Auburn team that had just gone through the program’s worst season in decades with a stagnant offense and pliant defense.
As is his way, the coach known for fast play on offense went to work in a hurry. He led the second-ranked Tigers’ transformation into Southeastern Conference champions and has them in the national championship game Jan. 6 against No. 1 Florida State.
Malzahn’s quick work made him The Associated Press national coach of the year.
“It’s very humbling,” he said Monday. “Any time you get awards like this, it’s a team thing, as far as our staff and our players. It’s been fun to be a part of this year.”
Malzahn received 33 votes from AP Top 25 college football poll voters to beat out Duke’s David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe received 17 votes after leading Duke (10-3) to its first 10-win season. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio each received three votes.
Malzahn is the second Auburn coach to win the award since it began in 1998, joining Tommy Tuberville (2004), and the second coach to win it in his first season with a new team. Maryland Ralph Friedgen was AP coach of the year in 2001, his first season with the Terrapins.
It’s the fifth time an SEC coach has won AP coach of the year.
Auburn icon Bo Jackson likened Malzahn’s task to starting with an empty lot upon his hiring in December 2012.
“He’s got to rebuild that house,” said Jackson, the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner.
The foundation was set with confidence and attitude, reinforced with a message that it was “a new day” for Auburn (12-1) after a 3-9 season in 2012 that was the Tigers’ worst since 1952. Even more jarring, they had failed to win an SEC game.
It didn’t take the team long to adopt a goal of forging the greatest turnaround in college football.
The result was one of the biggest ever. Only Hawaii’s 8.5-game turnaround from 1999-2000 matches Auburn’s one-year improvement.
“It’s a real tribute to our players that they’ve bonded together,” Malzahn said. “They’ve done everything our coaches have asked, and I think the No. 1 thing is we developed good relationships with our players. We trust our players, the players trust our coaches and we’ve got each others’ backs.”
Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense has thrived with junior college transfer Nick Marshall at quarterback and tailback Tre Mason, a Heisman Trophy finalist, behind a sturdy offensive line.
Defensive end Nosa Eguae said he knew this team was special “when we really just bought into coach Malzahn’s plan.”
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to have the biggest turnaround in college football,” Eguae said. “We knew the only way to do that was to get better every single day. Tuesdays and Wednesdays (on game weeks) were big for us because those are our work days and we got better. We beat some teams that people thought we couldn’t beat.”
The confidence boost was so dramatic that defensive end Dee Ford wondered publicly back in November, “Why not win it all?” That seemingly far-fetched utterance followed a 45-41 road upset of Johnny Manziel then-No. 7 Texas A&M.
It was the Tigers’ biggest win before beating defending national champion Alabama and, then, Missouri in the SEC championship game. That followed a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against Mississippi State and a 35-21 loss to LSU after falling behind 21-0 in the first 18 minutes.
“The Mississippi State game, finding a way to drive the field and win that game in the end, said a lot about our team,” Malzahn said. “LSU, we had a chance to shut her down in a tough environment, and they kept fighting.”
The pivotal game, though, was probably Texas A&M.
“At the time they were one of the top teams in the country, one of the toughest places to play,” Malzahn said. “Our offense drove the field with under two minutes to score, and then we held the best player in college football (Manziel) out of the end zone on the last drive, which nobody had done that up to that point.
“When we walked off that field, we felt like we could play with anybody.”