Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was welcomed back to his starting position Monday by Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who said he didn't believe the quarterback's leadership role with the top-ranked Seminoles has suffered because of the notoriety that has followed Winston in recent months.
Winston stood by on the Seminole sidelines Saturday night as fellow redshirt sophomore Sean Maguire threw for 305 yards and one touchdown to help Florida State (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) eke out a 23-17 overtime win over a mistake-riddled Clemson team that had outplayed the Seminoles for much of the game. The Seminoles seek their 20th straight win Saturday at unbeaten North Carolina State (4-0).
Fisher said he hopes that last week's one-game suspension is a wakeup call for Winston, who has bounced from one incident to another during his time in Tallahassee.
"I think it really hit home, no doubt," Fisher said at his weekly Monday meeting with media covering the program.
Winston has been involved in a series of off-field incidents in recent months, including last week's suspension for making "offensive and vulgar" comments about female anatomy on campus. University officials hope the suspension gets the 20-year-old's attention.
"When he does spontaneous things he has to make better judgments,' Fisher said Monday. "Jameis is not a bad individual. He makes poor decisions. He's got to stop that."
While playing for the Florida State baseball team, he was suspended for three games and completed 20 hours of community service after acknowledging he stole $32 worth of crab legs from a local grocery store in April. Before the football season, he said he had matured, learned what it takes to be a leader and understood that he needed to be more careful in his personal life.
Winston was not available for comment on Monday; he usually talks to the media on Wednesdays.
Fisher said overall, his 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback is loved by teammates.
"They also see how hard he works, how he prepares, how diligent he is with them. It has not affected that part."
And, Fisher noted that his players also gained the confidence in Winston's absence. The coach said they now know they can win without him if necessary.
"Hey, we can do this if Jameis wasn't here," Fisher said. "We are a team. I think the rest of the country saw that."
Fisher also said the staff was to blame for Winston showing up in full uniform Saturday before returning to the locker room and removing his pads, helmet and football pants.
"That was a miscommunication," Fisher said. "When we saw it, it was corrected. He was great about it. That was our fault."
Fisher praised Maguire for his play and how he responded to a turbulent week.
Maguire was initially named the starter for the first half at midweek and then late Friday learned he'd be playing the whole game. His parents and a sister, who live in New Jersey, arranged at the last minute to travel to Tallahassee on Saturday, arriving shortly before kickoff.
"You never know until he gets in there," conceded Fisher, who noted that Maguire was largely thrown to the wolves with a baptismal against a talented defensive team like Clemson.
"He was a guy you felt very comfortable about," Fisher said. "Now I know, compared to not knowing. "That's a heckuva way to get your first initiation into college football. He did an outstanding job handling his emotions."