By now pretty much everybody has seen Jameis Winston's inspirational pregame speech. You know, the one that ESPN gave fans a glimpse of right before the Seminoles trucked the Tigers in Death Valley?
If you don't rembember, ESPN showed Winston telling teammates to smile because they were going to win before the Clemson game on Saturday night. It fed into a narrative that presented the young signal-caller as the singular leader of this Florida State team.
And while that is largely true -- up and down this team the players will tell you how much faith they have in Winston, how they look to him for direction -- it's not the whole story.
"A lot of guys talked in the locker room," said senior LB Telvin Smith on Monday. "They just happened to show Jameis, but we love it. Put the camera on him and keep it going. If he can embrace it, we can, too."
As the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance goes, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." And that's largely what's happened since Saturday night. That was the better story.
And it is a sexy narrative isn't it?
Rather than a coach or a senior, a redshirt freshman gives the pregame speech and the Seminoles win 51-14. Sadly it's only partially true. Jameis Winston is one of the leaders of this team. Devonta Freeman said on Tuesday that he'd never been around a player that earned the trust of a team so quickly.
But there are other leaders too -- on both sides of the ball.
That gives way to another storyline though -- perhaps not as dynamic, but more accurate -- about how Winston's rising national profile really plays in the Florida State locker room.
“In a sense I’m happy that’s on him, because he’s playing with it," said Telvin Smith last week, before Clemson. "It’s going to come, it’s going to probably get even worse as he goes along here so let him get it now, let him get as much as he needs right now and then keep that pressure off the defense."
Keep the pressure off of the defense.
Quick thought exercise: without the Winston storyline what is the dominant narrative in regards to this Seminoles team?
The atrophy of six assistant coaches -- chief among them former-defensive coordinator Mark Stoops -- and the implementation of a new defensive system.
That means the magnifiying glass -- moreso than it already was -- is on 200 rushing yards against Boston College or a slow start at Pittsburgh or getting off the field in the first half against Nevada. Sure, with a program the profile of FSU you're always going to get scrutiny on some level, but without the jaw-dropping performances Winston has turned in so far this FSU team probably would have had a much different kind of story being written about it heading into the Clemson game.
'How is this new defense going to hold up at Clemson?'
That equates to pressure.
"You know a lot of times last year were were put in situations where -- NC State you know a lot of people were hyping on the defense -- and then things happen," said Smith. "So just keep the pressure going as long as he can maintain it and continue to perform -- I have no problem with it.”
The other positive is how Winston handles the praise and attention.
"He understands the game and that he can’t do what he does without everybody else," said Jimbo Fisher. "That’s what the guys who make an impact on this game and last a long time truly grasp. [His teammates] know he is getting attention but at the same time they know he gives it back to them. When he is with them, he’s one of them. He doesn’t look at himself above them and I think that’s very critical.”
Added Smith: “We’re happy to have a guy getting that much attention around the college world because obviously he’s going to bring a lot of attention to this team so as long as he continues to perform and we continue to back him up and perform and be there for him, man, we’ll be phenomenal.”
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