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When Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston met Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel during the awards week in early December, it gave him a different perspective.
Winston, who has been the subject of scrutiny in the past couple months, sought out Manziel's advice on how to deal with off-field distractions and make sure those distractions don't affect his football team.
“I did have an opportunity to talk to Johnny. He just told me to stay myself,” Winston told media on Friday. “When you think about the things that Johnny went through and then you see the things that he does on the field, it makes you forget about the things that's happening, and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to make football be my getaway, and that's what he's done a great job of. And that's why I'm glad I've got a team like this because they allow me to let football be the getaway because when I look in their eyes, they're like, we're ready to fight.”
Winston, like Manziel, was thrust into the spotlight early in his college career and in November, Winston became a subject of scrutiny after he was accused of a sexual assault that had occurred a year ago. The accusations threatened to derail his Heisman campaign and his team’s national championship hopes, but more importantly it made Winston a target for ridicule regardless of whether the accusations were true.
That’s when Winston said he looked to his teammates and football for solace.
“My teammates aren't looking at me anything differently because they know I did nothing wrong through the whole process,” Winston said. “But at the end of the day, that kind of brought us closer together as a team, because dang, our quarterback is going through this situation, and dang, people still are not leaving us alone after we're having a successful season. But that brought us closer together as a team.
“That was a changing point in our whole team because that was a time we needed to get over the hump. We were playing against a Syracuse team that had confidence, and they were coming into our house and they had confidence that they would beat us. It got us back refocused to where we needed to be at.”
Winston, who was never charged, said he spent a lot of time talking to Manziel, who became an overnight celebrity last season after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel has said multiple times that he probably didn’t handle his newfound popularity well, and now he’s using it as a lesson for another young player.
“One thing that Johnny did is he set a standard for himself. He's more focused on himself, more focused on the things that he do,” Winston said. “That's why the guy went 30 for 38 against Duke and just ripped them apart and basically won that game by himself. That's why every day I come out here to play with my Seminoles because I know we're going to go out there and fight, we're going to control our own destiny and we're don't care about nothing else that's going on outside of this football team.”
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