Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - After both winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Florida State Seminoles to the BCS national championship as a redshirt freshman a season ago, there's little doubting Jameis Winston's standing as the premiere quarterback in the FBS.
It's Winston's off-the-field persona that's starting to be a cause for concern.
The star signal caller made headlines for all the wrong reasons last fall when he found himself the suspect in a high-profile sexual assault investigation. While he was not charged, the mere association with such a heinous act raised several red flags regarding Winston's character, and rightfully so.
Many will argue that Winston was able to "overcome adversity" by moving past the allegations and winning the national title, but claiming that could lose sight of the seriousness of the situation.
After seeing through the long legal process while having his character questioned every step of the way, one would think Winston would have learned his lesson, but instead of quietly going about his business this spring in preparation for the season, a bone-headed decision put his name to the forefront of a slow FBS offseason.
On Tuesday night, Winston received a civil citation from the Leon County (Florida) Sheriff's Office after stealing just over $32 worth of crab legs from a supermarket.
If the above statement sounds ridiculous, that's because it is on nearly every level. This is not on par with Winston's earlier off-the-field run-in with the law, not even close. Still, the sheer brashness and audacity of the act is a definite cause for concern.
Winston attempted to clear the air earlier in the week by making a statement through his attorney.
"I went to the supermarket with the intent to purchase dinner but made a terrible mistake for which I'm taking full responsibility," Winston said. "In a moment of youthful ignorance, I walked out of the store without paying for one of my items."
The phrase "youthful ignorance" is an especially head-scratching one. He was not ignorant of the situation. He knows full well that he is not supposed to walk out of a store without paying for his items.
What he did was a calculated move, done simply because he thought he could get away with it.
And as for the "youthful" part of that statement, the boys-will-be-boys defense doesn't hold much water, either, especially when he's the leader of national championship-winning squad with several personal and professional advisors on his side helping him along.
"I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach," the statement continued. "Over the last year, I've learned that my accomplishments on the fields can be a wonderful thing for my school, teammates, friends, and family. At the same time, I must realize that my mistakes are magnified and can bring great embarrassment to all those who support me every day. I make no excuses for my actions and will learn and grow from this unfortunate situation. I hope and pray my friends and family will view me as the 20-year-old young man that I am, and support me through this unfortunate situation."
Although Winston was not arrested, he will not go completely unpunished as a result of his actions. He will have to serve 20 hours of community service on top of paying for the stolen products if he wishes to avoid criminal charges. He also was suspended from the FSU baseball team, where his elite athleticism has been put on display this spring by posting a 1.50 ERA, five saves and 25 strikeouts in 24 innings out of the bullpen.
It's a small price to pay for Winston, who likely won't face any repercussions on the football field, but it's not out of the question that NFL executives begin to view him in a different light moving forward.
After such an outstanding redshirt freshman campaign (.669 completion percentage, 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions), Winston established himself as the clear-cut top QB prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft if he decides to declare for it, appearing to be a franchise-changing signal caller like Andrew Luck was a few seasons back. However, per various sources, some NFL scouts have already began altering their big boards.
There's still plenty of time for Winston to prove his doubters wrong -- Johnny Manziel also found himself in the midst of off-the-field troubles last offseason and now appears in position to be a top-10 pick in next week's draft -- but that would first require a major attitude adjustment on Winston's part.
As the adage goes, "One is an accident, two is a trend." Conventional wisdom suggests Winston will simply try to take care of business on the football field from this point, but his latest poor decision proves he still has a lot of growing up to do.