GREENSBORO, N.C. – Jameis Winston wants to look to the season ahead as the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for reigning national champion Florida State. He also knows he has to answer questions about his off-field conduct.
"I understand the spotlight," Winston said Sunday on the first of the Atlantic Coast Conference's two-day preseason kickoff event. "I understand what it is to be a leader and I'm bettering myself every single day to hold myself to that standard that everyone views me as, you know? Because I'm on a pedestal. Other players don't get the privilege of being on that pedestal."
Winston was investigated for sexual assault during last season. A prosecutor in Tallahassee, Florida, decided in December not to charge him due to a lack of evidence and gaps in the accuser's story.
Then in April, he was cited for walking out of a supermarket without paying for crab legs and crawfish.
He did not address specifics of the incident Sunday during an hour-long interview session that had about 60 reporters crowded around his table. Instead, he focused on working to become a better leader and player with the support of family, teammates and coaches.
"I have a certain standard that I've got to hold myself up to, and if I go even an inch below that standard, it's going to be chaos."
Asked if it was a difficult lesson to learn, Winston said, "It wasn't difficult at all because you learn from your mistakes in this world. I learned from my mistakes, I fixed it and I moved on into preparing for this season."
Miami running back Duke Johnson described Winston as "a kid still" and said Winston does not seem bothered by outside criticism.
"He likes to have fun, he likes to play around, and a lot of people take that out of (context) and make it bigger than what it really is," Johnson said. "But I don't believe Jameis means any harm in what he does or anything he may have done in the past."
Winston seemed at ease with the attention and prepared for the questions Sunday. He started his interview by pointing out that the ACC, not the Southeastern Conference, won last year's national championship and playfully asked reporters for a round of applause.
At times leaning back with his hands behind his head, Winston talked about improving his mechanics by holding the ball higher to shorten his throwing motion, his hope of becoming a pro in both football and baseball and how he was more focused on winning a second title than a second Heisman.
As for whether people might be hesitant to believe he has learned from his past?
"I definitely understand that ... but I know the type of person that I am," he said. "I know I have support from my teammates and I know that I was raised by a great family. So that's the least of my worries, what people think."
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