Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, has one more year to be a college football star before his inevitable leap to the pros.
But are we sure that his pro choice is football?
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Winston, who has been predicted by some as a possible first pick of the 2015 draft, clearly loves baseball too. He's a relief pitcher for the Seminoles, and he's very good at both sports. Pat Forde's column examining Winston's answers at ACC media days was interesting (and you can read it all here), but one comment in particular caught my eye:
On whether Winston wants to go pro in both football and baseball: "I do. That's something I put my mind to. If someday comes and I have to make a decision [between the two sports], I'm confident I'll make the right decision."
That's not even a comment that requires someone to read between the lines. He spoke clearly about choosing between the two sports when that time comes, and he likely will have to choose one at some point. While it seems inconceivable that a quarterback who will probably be a top 10 NFL pick despite some off-field questions would choose baseball, read his comment again. And here's what his father said about Winston's baseball career earlier this year:
"We have heard for him to go in the first round of the baseball draft then he will have to give up football," Antonor Winston told AL.com.
This doesn't appear to be some daydream. Winston and/or his family have looked into the matter of a baseball career, it appears. And Winston is a talented pitcher, with a 1.08 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched this past season. He limited opposing batters to a .154 average. If everything is equal, having a longer, probably concussion-free career in baseball has to be considered. Especially since baseball's more lucrative guaranteed contracts make the NFL's smaller and non-guaranteed deals look like a joke.
I don't think Winston picks baseball. I also don't think any NFL team would allow him to play two sports, because it's hard to believe anyone can be a great quarterback while playing baseball half the year. A great football player picking another sport isn't unheard of though. Charlie Ward, a fellow Florida State Heisman winner, chose an NBA career. Jeff Samardzija, a good receiver at Notre Dame, picked baseball. But Ward wouldn't have been a first-round pick (the NFL wasn't ready for a player with his skill set yet) and Samardzjia wasn't nearly the star Winston is. Bo Jackson picking baseball after winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy is the best comparison, though he famously ended up playing both sports. If Winston does pick baseball, as crazy as that sounds, it would be incredibly rare for someone in his situation.
I think Winston plays in the NFL and has a fine career. The reason this speculation hasn't become a bigger deal is probably because nobody really believes Winston will pass up the chance to be a high NFL pick, maybe first overall, to work his way through the minors in a baseball career. But it's just a guess that he'll ultimately pick football, considering he won't commit to giving up baseball to have an NFL career.
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