After airing Jameis Winston’s throwing session at Florida State’s pro day on Tuesday, NFL Network debuted the “Game Changers” series with former NFL coach and current analyst Steve Mariucci sitting down with Winston for an interview and working with him on the field. The 30-minute show offered a revealing look at Winston’s personality, skill set and candidness.
Mariucci asked Winston about how he explained some of his off-field incidents to NFL teams, including Tampa Bay, which has the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and is considering taking the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.
“I was just being a college kid,” Winston said about his off-field issues. “It’s about gaining their trust. Give me a chance. Let my actions speak from now on. I can’t go back and change what I did.
“I had to explain a few of those incidents. I could just be as real as I could possibly be. Some people can make up their mind about you in three seconds. Some people can hear you out. At the end of the day, I’m not reminiscing about those incidents. I’m moving forward.”
Winston acknowledged meeting with head coach Lovie Smith and the Bucs owners, the Glazer family shortly after the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I believe it was an eye-opening process for everyone involved in Tampa Bay because they thought it was probably going to be scripted,” Winston said. “Like I would come in with some scripted words or try to tell a story. I just came in as myself and I plan on being myself – but a more mature self, a better version of me. This is a privilege. Just getting an opportunity to play in the NFL is a privilege.”
Mariucci asked Winston if he wanted to be drafted by the Buccaneers, and how he would feel if he wasn’t.
“I would love for that to happen,” Winston said, stating his preference to play for the Bucs. “I wouldn’t be mad, but I would be kind of hurt that it’s not Tampa. I’m hometown … but life goes on.”
Mariucci asked if Winston was the best quarterback in the draft.
“I think so – I know so,” Winston said.
Winston was asked if he was better than Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“It’s not just one person that I am trying to be better than,” Winston said. “I’m trying to be better than myself. I’m pushing myself to a limit that I know no one else can compete with, especially on this college level.”
Mariucci said that not a lot of top quarterbacks elect to throw at the Combine, but Winston did, opting to compete against Mariota, who is also vying to be the first quarterback – and player – drafted on April 30.
“I’m a competitor,” Winston said. “Any chance that we get to play football – the game that we love – I’m down for it. I’m not worried about a risk. I’m playing football. I didn’t care about any of that. When I go to a football field I don’t go thinking the worst. I go thinking the best. That was a Super Bowl for me.”
Mariucci then peppered Winston with some word association questions during the episode.
When asked about FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, Winston called him, “My football daddy.”
When referencing Peyton Manning, Winston said, “Great quarterback.”
Winston hesitated when describing Johnny Manziel, finally saying, “Hollywood on the football field” before calling Deion Sanders “Primetime.”
When it came to Mariota, Winston said, “Quite producer. Very quiet, but he produces.”
Mariucci asked him which current NFL quarterback Winston compares himself to.
“Right now the closest comparison would be Andrew Luck,” Winston said. “We both have a lot of similarities in our game. He’s aggressive, and I’m aggressive. He’s a competitor. I’ve seen him take some hits. I’ve seen him take some licks and he gets back up and starts balling.
“We take chances, and sometimes the chances can be bad. And sometimes the chances make people say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe he did that. I can’t believe that happened.’”
Several NFL Network analysts offered up their quick opinions of Winston during the “Game Changers” episode.
“If I need a quarterback, he is perhaps the best quarterback that we’ve seen since Andrew Luck,” LaDainian Tomlinson said.
Daniel Jeremiah said he didn’t think Winston was the best player in the draft, but believes he’s the best quarterback.
Heath Evans said that despite the fact that Winston is talented, he’s not touching him with the first pick in the draft due to off-field concerns.
“He’s proven he can win football games in adversity coming from behind in the second half,” said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly.
“If I’m Tampa Bay I take Jameis Winston number one overall as my new starting quarterback,” Charles Davis said. “I need offense to keep up with Atlanta New Orleans and Carolina in my own division.”
“He’s a gifted player and it doesn’t take a whole lot of tape to see that,” Mike Mayock said. “He’s the prototype with a big arm – good enough athlete. What I like is that he anticipates throwing the ball open, which is rare in college football today. The caveat is the off-field concerns. To me, he’s a top-5 pick and maybe the number one pick in the draft.”
Mariucci and Winston watched several of his best plays together, including the game-winning touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to beat Auburn and win the BCS Championship as a redshirt freshman in 2013.
“There it is, R tight, 10-46 max, Z post,” Winston said. “I threw it in a spot where only he could get it. That’s a pretty good spot, but it was kind of behind him. Me and KB spent more time on that play over the summer than any route ever. It won us a national championship.”
Winston shared how excited he is to be drafted on the NFL Network special.
“When Mr. Goodell calls my name at the draft it’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Winston said. “My mom and everybody are going to be screaming. It’s going to be an important day. I’m going to be wearing a nice suit no matter where I am because you have to look good on draft day.”
Mariucci was clearly enamored with Winston’s ability and personality and concluded the episode with this final thought.
“He’s as impressive on the board as he is on the field,” Mariucci said. “After spending some time with Jameis Winston here’s what I can tell you. He’s extremely confident and he’s determined to be great. Jameis Winston is the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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