Jameis Winston keeps proving he can tune out any distraction for No. 1 Florida State.
A week after a one-game suspension, the Heisman Trophy winner looked unfazed by his team's slow start at North Carolina State. He shook off his own mistakes and instead got the Seminoles' offense moving well enough to avoid the kind of loss that would've shaken up the chase for college football's first playoff.
"There's no pressure when the football field is your sanctuary," Winston said after Saturday's 56-41 win at N.C. State. "Because when you step in between those lines, literally in between those lines, that's all that matters."
A little more than a year into his college career, the player with a history of off-field transgressions — some serious, some less so but embarrassing nonetheless — has yet to let it impact his play.
Winston was suspended last week for making lewd comments about female anatomy on campus, then watched backup Sean Maguire lead an overtime home win against Clemson.
He threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday's return, guiding the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to four straight touchdown drives in the second half as they gradually tugged momentum away from the Wolfpack (4-1, 0-1) after trailing by 17 in the opening quarter.
Yes, Winston had three turnovers, including a late interception that helped keep the Wolfpack in the game a little longer. But FSU has now won a school-record 20 straight games and 17 straight against ACC opponents, most of those coming with Winston at quarterback.
The school has decided that Winston will no longer be available to the media except after games. He had held weekly media sessions since being named the starter before last season, but coach Jimbo Fisher has said limiting his availability would help him focus on priorities such as school, football and making good life decisions.
Saturday marked Winston's first public comments since the school upped his suspension from the first half against the Tigers to the entire game.
Asked about watching his teammates win without him, Winston said it proved Florida State is the nation's best team and full of fighters.
"When you've got people like that, good quality people that's going to have your back no matter what, you know it's not no one-man team," Winston said. "Because it's about us. It's not about me. It's not about the coaches. It's about this whole family."
Receiver Rashad Greene, who caught Winston's go-ahead scoring pass late in the third quarter, said Winston can ignore distractions because he's "a strong-minded young man."
"He knows he has our support and nothing else matters besides this family to him," Greene said. "What else could you ask for? We're not worried about the outside world. It's pretty much us against the world, not in a negative way, but we just want to keep our circle small."
Winston has dealt with heavy scrutiny over the past year.
He guided the Seminoles to the national championship during a season in which he was also investigated, but never charged, for sexual assault.
While playing for the Florida State baseball team in the spring, 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.
The school is currently investigating Winston for a possible code of conduct violation involving the alleged sexual assault in December 2012. The Department of Education is investigating the university on how it handles reports of sexual assault after Winston's accuser filed a complaint.
Asked whether the Winston-related distractions were behind them, Fisher said he thought so.
"I know the young man," Fisher said. "I'm not saying he's perfect, but I still believe in him and am very confident in him."
Winston's play, at least, is leaving little room for doubt. And he doesn't mind if outsiders root against him.
"It's not about that," he said. "It's our job to go out there and play Florida State football. Whatever is said, whatever is did, at the end of the day, we still are a great team. We're the Seminoles and we've got to represent."
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