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December 14, 2013

Jameis Winston becomes second freshman to win Heisman

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Replay of Winston's Heisman winning moment | cameraPhoto Gallery: Winston wins Heisman

NEW YORK - Jameis Winston's trophy case is already packed, but FSU's redshirt freshman quarterback may want to clear out some space front and center for his newest addition: the Heisman Trophy.

Winston was awarded the trophy Saturday night, beating out five other finalists including last season's winner, Johnny Manziel. Winston is the second straight redshirt freshman to win the award, the third FSU player to win and the youngest in the history of the award.

An emotional Winston held the award and talked about trusting in the process, a favorite catch phrase of Jimbo Fisher. He referenced trusting in a variety of coaches and family members, and his voice cracked when he looked at his parents in the crowd.

"It's just, I was proud," Winston said. "And when I looked down in the stands when I was giving my speech, I saw my mom and my dads eyes, and they were so proud. I haven't seen that look in their eyes for a long time. When you see your Mom and you see your Dad and they've been struggling through that whole process and now you see a smile on their face, it comforted me."

Winston won the award going away. He beat out second-place AJ McCarron of Alabama 2,205 to 704, the fifth-largest margin of victory in the modern era, while being left off of 115 ballots. Winston collected 668 first-place votes, and none of the other finalists had more than 80.

Winston's dominance in the votes reflects his dominant rookie season. He's currently having the second-most efficient season for any quarterback in NCAA history, has tied the NCAA record for most touchdown passes by a freshman in a season ever and already holds most of the single-season passing records at Florida State - which puts him in select company. The company got even more select as other contenders fell out of the running each week.

Winston took one step closer to cementing his legend with Saturday night's award, joining former FSU quarterbacks Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke as Heisman winners. He's also led the Seminoles back to the national championship game for the first time in more than a decade, as FSU plays Auburn for the national title - on Winston's 20th birthday.

The win, however, did come with a measure of controversy. In November, Winston was implicated in a sexual assault complaint from December of 2012. The State Attorney's Office reopened the investigation and for three weeks his status was ultimately in doubt. In the first week of Heisman voting, McCarron led most of the votes, and a significant number of voters left Winston off their ballot entirely.

"Everybody has their own opinion," Winston said. "It's a numbers game, and I was blessed that I had the majority vote."

While many Heisman voters wondered publicly if they could vote for Winston with the open investigation hanging over his head, the controversy surrounding him was defused before the final voting deadline when he wasn't charged. That left only Winston's remarkable statistics from this season to consider. They made a powerful case.

Winston, the youngest player ever to win the Heisman, made a powerful argument for the national spotlight in his very first game of his college career. On Monday night on the road at Pittsburgh in front of a national television audience, Winston completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards, had four passing touchdowns and rushing for another. And he hasn't slacked off the pace much since.

In 13 games, Winston has completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. His passer rating is a nation-leading 190.1. He's also put up those numbers despite sitting many of FSU's second halves in blowout wins. He also has the fewest attempts (26.2 per game) of any quarterback in the top 20 of passing yards, and he's thrown a touchdown every 9.1 passes on average - best in the country. He averages more yards per passing attempt than anyone in the NCAA.

Winston is just the second redshirt freshman to win the Heisman and the second in a row after Manziel who won in 2012. He is the 11th quarterback to win in the last 12 years.

"This is not just to Jameis Winston," Winston said. "This goes to Florida State. I'm so blessed right now man. It means so much to me. I've only got one thing to say: 'At Florida State, if we're going to do it then, we do it big.'"

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