Even Charlie Ward has a little bit of Jameis envy.
The legendary Florida State quarterback has no reason to be jealous of anyone, as he's arguably the most talented offensive player ever to play in Tallahassee, but still …
"I wish I was 6'4", 230," Ward told Yahoo Sports, speaking of Seminoles freshman Jameis Winston. "I probably wouldn't have played basketball [professionally]."
Ward – 6'2", 190" – could have played in the NFL, or in MLB (he was drafted by the Brewers), but he chose to go to the NBA. He was a little ahead of his time in football. "The dynamics of my size and my position didn't go together," he says.
Most 'Noles fans thought there would never be another quarterback like him, but now there's a freshman who's reminiscent of the 1993 Heisman Trophy winner.
[Watch: Week 9 Heisman watch]
"I heard a lot about him before he started playing," Ward says of Winston. "I wanted to know, 'Was it all true?' Lo and behold, it was all true. He's the real deal."
Lo and behold, Winston's stats so far measure up to Ward's. In that '93 national title season, Ward had a 69.5 completion percentage, more than 3,000 yards passing, and 27 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Here's Winston through seven games this season: 69.9 completion percentage, 2,177 yards, and 23 touchdowns against four interceptions.
And to think: Ward threw 17 interceptions as a junior before his remarkable senior season.
Winston is a freshman.
"He's up there with the top guys," says Ward, who is now football head coach at Westbury Christian high school in Houston. "He throws balls where they need to be. He throws the hard ball, the soft ball. He has all those throws. When you have all the throws, it's very hard to defend. If he didn't have all the talent and he had guys who you wouldn't think would be as talented, they would still be good, because he's going to will them to do well."
The stats and results say enough for Winston, but Ward keeps coming back to that charismatic quality only the best quarterbacks have. Ward has seen Winston get indignant when his team lost a preseason scrimmage. He has gotten funny texts from Winston when he checks up on him during game weeks. He's seen the composure, the poise. It seems Winston not only knows when and where to throw the ball, but also when and where to strike the right chord with teammates.
While defending Heisman winner Johnny Manziel can go in any direction (on and off the field), Winston only seems to move in one direction: straight ahead. That's something Ward says he only mastered at the end of his career at Florida State.
"He's very outspoken," Ward says. "Very confident in his ability. I was the opposite. I was not outspoken. I spoke a lot with my action and quiet-type leadership. He's on fire right now."
Ward showed progress all four years, and his teammates grew along with him. It wasn't a shock to see him dominating as an upperclassman, surrounded by talent at pretty much every position. Winston is different. Only four months ago, the likely starter was Clint Trickett. "Famous Jameis" was a mystery to almost everyone (including Ward). Even when Winston won the job and Trickett left school, quarterback was the big question mark on a stacked team. Now the freshman is the leader, and a roster dappled with NFL-ready talent is happy to follow along. There's a smidgen of too-good-to-be-true with Winston, except that, well, the hype appears to be just that – true.
"He goes out and handles his business," Ward says. "He makes good decisions. He's a very good student. He produces on the field. It's hard not to like him. Even if you don't like FSU, you have to like him."
So Winston has earned Ward's respect on the field and on a personal level – they text weekly – but to be legendary in Tallahassee, you have to beat Miami and you have to beat Florida. Ward did both in '93; Winston hasn't done either yet. We're now getting away from the novelty of a freshman who reminds us of Charlie Ward and edging toward the litmus test of a quarterback who must win like Charlie Ward.
There hasn't been a crucible moment for Winston thus far – no need for an end-of-game drive or pinpoint throws from an ever-collapsing pocket. There isn't expected to be much of that Saturday either, as Winston's team is favored by 21 against Miami.
Sooner or later, though, that moment will come. Whether he shows the same steadiness at that time will determine how he truly compares to Ward. It was Ward who led the 'Noles to a last-minute national title win over Tommie Frazier and Nebraska 20 years ago. Winston may get his chance against A.J. McCarron of Alabama or Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
First he has to win the state of Florida.
For now, it's Jameis Winston who is well-known, and Charlie Ward who is famous.
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