Winston shows off his skills to NFL coaches

Published 5:35 am Wednesday, April 1, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston dodged brooms and blocking pads. He threw over outstretched arms and tennis rackets. He completed passes from the pocket and on the run.

Even when it was time for a brief break during Florida State’s pro day Tuesday, Winston grabbed the water bottles and served his teammates.

No doubt, Winston put on quite a show for NFL coaches, general managers and scouts.

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The Seminoles star threw passes for nearly an hour, demonstrating arm strength, accuracy and stamina while drawing cheers from the hundreds on hand.

His next public workout might be as the top pick in the NFL draft.

Winston sent a strong message — literally — that he should be the first player taken in next month’s draft. Asked why Tampa Bay should select him, Winston didn’t hesitate to respond.

“Because I’m the best player in this draft,” he said.

It would be hard to argue after his 55-minute passing session Tuesday that only solidified what NFL teams have seen from Winston the last two years as Florida State’s starter.

Winston completed 91 of 102 passes, with at least half of the incompletions being drops. Of course, the routes didn’t include defenders, but executives were more concerned with little details that typically go unnoticed to untrained eyes.

“It was very good, excellent. He had a great day,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. “He threw a full nine innings. It looked good.”

Licht said Winston was in better shape than he was at the NFL combine, which should alleviate any concerns that may have arose after those unflattering photos of Winston’s gut circulated on the Internet and on social media sites.

“I think that maybe puts a little water on that, puts that fire out,” said Licht, part of a big Bucs contingent that included coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

Licht said Winston’s conditioning, leadership and arm strength stood out at Florida State’s indoor practice facility.

“That was pretty impressive,” he said. “I’m sure it’s bittersweet for the coaching staff here at Florida State to watch him today.”

It wasn’t just Winston, either.

Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., versatile offensive lineman Cameron Erving and cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams also proved to be worthy of early round picks.

Nonetheless, Winston got most of the attention.

He announced in January he was entering the NFL draft, leaving behind a tumultuous college career that included a lengthy sexual assault investigation. He met with teams at the combine and met with the Tennessee Titans, who have the No. 2 pick in the draft, following his pro day Tuesday. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt declined interview requests. So did New Orleans coach Sean Payton.

Winston was scheduled to hold a private workout for Tampa Bay next week in Tallahassee.

“It’s been a huge job interview, and I’ve loved it,” said Winston, who played baseball at FSU the last two springs. “This is the first time I’ve been able to be a quarterback year-round. This is the first time I’ve been able to just sit and talk to another man eye to eye about what they may think about me or about what I might do.

“It’s not like talking to the media. You’re talking to another man, eye to eye, about why they should pick you. This has been a very enjoyable process, and I love every second of it. If it’s something dealing with football, I love it.”

Winston set the national freshman record in 2013 with 40 touchdown passes while throwing for 4,057 yards and 10 interceptions and leading the Seminoles to the national title. His numbers dropped last season after losing his top two running backs, two starting receivers and his starting center. Winston threw for 3,907 yards, with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, in 2014.

Winston has since been working with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has cleaned up the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner’s mechanics.

Retired NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski noted that Winston held the ball a little higher than usual during his wind up and had a shorter stride.

“When his mechanics are right, he’s perfect,” Jaworski said. “He can make every throw without any sort of problem at all.”

Winston knows it, too.

“I felt I did great on every throw,” he said. “You got a tally? I think I had like five incompletions or six. I did great on every throw. I’m a competitor, 100 percent juicy juice. I’m a competitor. When it’s time to play football, I want to play football.”


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