May 1, 2015
WalterFootball.com attended the first night of the 2015 NFL Draft at One Buc Place along with the Buccaneers’ press conferences and conference call with Jamies Winston. Whether the pick works out or not, this was a historic night for the franchise.
The Bucs Start Here
In the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team has never had a true franchise quarterback. The Bucs had some quarterbacks flash, but they’ve never had a Hall of Fame signal-caller enjoy a historic career in Tampa Bay. That could be forever changed as the Bucs may have landed their superstar quarterback in Jameis Winston. Tampa Bay made him the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and it was an easy selection for Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. Licht was asked when Tampa Bay decided on Winston as its pick at No. 1.
“That’s a good question. As a football player, a long time ago,” said Licht. “You have to let the process play out with all players. You have to make sure that all players that you’re selecting … you check all the boxes with them. We checked a lot of boxes with Jameis. It’s been quite some time; I don’t want to put a time and date on it, but it’s been quite some time. We wanted to make sure that everyone in the building was on board, including coaches and scouts, who did a tremendous job. Jon Robinson led a charge that was one that I’ll remember forever. In terms of the background work we did, not just on Jameis but all the quarterbacks, we all came together on this as a consensus.”
Winston shared his feelings and his reaction after getting the call from Licht telling him that he was the No. 1-overall pick to the Buccaneers.
“I was elated, very elated,” said Winston. “As soon as I got the call, I just started thing about ways I can serve my teammates, ways that I can make them happy without even stepping on the field yet.”
Winston went through a lot of controversy in his college career from a sexual-assault allegation, an incident at Publix of him not paying for some crab legs, and getting suspended for the Clemson game after shouting a meme with some obscenities in the cafeteria. Sources around the league thought Winston would grow out of the off-the-field issues, and Licht said Tampa Bay wasn’t worried about Winston’s personal makeup.
“If he wasn’t a good guy, we wouldn’t have used the first pick on him,” said Licht. “When we were doing the exhaustive process that we went through, and that I’ve talked about, Lovie’s talked about and ownership’s talked about, and how they’re comfortable with it; not only were we comfortable with his character, we were confident with his character. We think that his character that he brings to the locker room and the building is a strength. That’s one of the things that makes him a great player.”
Winston said it meant a lot to him that the Licht and Lovie Smith were able to look past the off-the-field controversies and make him Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback.
“I just want to make sure; I have been cleared six times on that situation,” said Winston. “I took that situation so seriously, but at the end of the day, I got to keep moving forward. And that’s why I’m so thankful right now to be with my family, and I continue to thank the Glazers and Mr. Licht and coach Smith for believing in me. Even the people that have cleared me the six times I have been cleared, and I can’t let them down.”
In 2014, Winson completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,907 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He was a sparkling 26-1 as a starting quarterback. Winston took college football by storm in 2013 as the Heisman Trophy winner. The 6-foot-4, 231-pounder completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 219 yards with four touchdowns. Throughout his college career, Winston was exceptional in the fourth quarter and led a plethora of comeback wins, including a National Championship against Auburn. That fact wasn’t lost on the Bucs.
“There are big expectations. That’s one of the things with Jameis that set him apart as well,” said Licht. “He can play in some pressure now; he’s plays best in the clutch. You can see that on film and you can see that in games. The more pressure, the better he plays. That is probably a microcosm of him in terms of how he’s going to deal with pressure here, and he knows that he’s going to be under a lot of pressure. The players are excited about it; the coaches are excited about it, this whole building. Everybody in the building has played a part in this and we’re all very excited.”
For his part, Winston said that the pressure-packed moments are something he enjoys.
“I’m blessed,” said Winston. “I’ve been blessed with that my whole life. I like cherishing every moment and love to make things happen. The reason I’m so confident is I work hard. My hard work pays off, and I’ve been doing good so far and I don’t plan on stopping.”
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith also said that Winston’s experience in a pro-style system helped differentiate Winston.
“Him playing in a pro-style system helped,” Smith said. “You look and Jimbo [Fisher] did a great job with him at Florida State, and we saw him in a lot of the same situations you’ll see him in in the NFL. But that was just a part of it. Of course, Dirk Koetter having a big say in what we’re going to do, his evaluation meant an awful lot. We got a few chances to see [Winston] work out, we got a chance to actually work him out ourselves, and every step along the way it just checked out. In the end, it wasn’t that hard of a decision based on all the things we’re going to ask our quarterback to do.”
Smith discussed the process that Tampa Bay conducted that led them to deciding on Winston.
“Exciting night around here. We started the process a long time ago after the football season,” Smith said. “Knowing we had the first pick, we had a lot of ground to cover. We, and I, had opinions early on in the process, but we wanted to go through the process. Every step along the way, Jameis Winston stood out. I feel like I know him: from going to Bessemer to hang out with the family, to spending a lot of time with him, to letting him know what the expectations would be if we would select him, and to seeing how he would fit into our locker room with our football team. All of the boxes kind of checked out.
“I’m excited – we’re excited – to have him be a part of our football team. He’s a good football player, a very good person. I know a lot of things have been said about him, and he’s made some mistakes that young people make from time to time. I definitely don’t think I’ve seen a pattern once you get to know him. I just really believe in him, and I trust my instincts on people to know who we’re getting. Of course, we wanted to get not only a good football player but a really good guy to come into our locker room. We have an excellent locker room; we’ve talked about that. I feel like we’re close as a football team even though our record didn’t say that this year, but again, we got a good football player, and I can’t wait for him to get here.”
Winston was ecstatic to be a member of the Buccaneers, and his excitement was impossible to contain. He spent some time in Tampa last weekend and attended former Buc great Mike Alstott’s golf tournament. Winston sounds eager to get to Tampa Bay and make it his home.
“Looks like a great family town. I just look forward to being in the town with teammates and getting to know everybody, not just the locker room, get involved in the community,” said Winston. “I have a 7-year-old brother here in my lap right now; I can’t wait to spend time in local elementary schools, and I’ve already been talking with Mr.[Derrick ]Brooks about going to his school and speaking to those kids. It’s going to be so great. And this is not just a draft day. This is about being with people in the community and being a great young man, and I really would want the city of Tampa to build me and help me become a better young man and become someone that they would want in their community.”
– Special thanks to the team from PewterReport.com.
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