Off-Field Issues Will Remain Front And Center As Next Chapter Of His Career Begins

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — He lost just one game during his two seasons in college. Now, Jameis Winston says it’s time to try his luck with the big boys.

Florida State’s embattled quarterback announced his intention Wednesday to enter the NFL draft.

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“I reached this very difficult decision after careful consideration and long thought, realizing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family at Florida State,” Winston said in a statement released by his new representatives, The Legacy Agency. “I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to wear the garnet and gold and have greatly enjoyed my time as a Seminole, both as an athlete and a student in the classroom.”

Winston went 26-1 during his career at Florida State, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Seminoles to the national championship as a freshman in 2013. He posted another solid season in 2014, but his dream of winning back-to-back championships was dashed in the national semifinals with a 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual on New Year’s Day.

“I will always take pride in leading our team back to national prominence and am confident that my returning teammates will continue the success for many years to come,” Winston said.

Rated as the second-best QB behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in this year’s draft by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., Winston is expected to go early in the first round, perhaps even No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets, who have the No. 6 overall pick after going 4-12 during the 2014 season, could also use a quarterback and could be in play for Winston if they decide to trade up or if his numerous off-the-field issues scare some teams off.

Despite completing 66 percent of his passes for 7,964 yards and throwing 65 touchdowns to just 28 interceptions during his two seasons in Tallhassee, Winston was constantly in the news for the wrong reasons. He was accused of sexual assault stemming from an incident in 2012, but was never charged. A disciplinary hearing convened by Florida State late in 2014 found that there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty of violating the school’s code of conduct.

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Among other missteps on Winston’s resume was his suspension from the FSU baseball team in April after being accused of stealing nearly $33 worth of crab legs from a Tallahassee supermarket. Winston, who told police he “forgot” to pay for the items and later issued a public apology, was issued a citation that allowed him to perform community service.

Then in September he was ultimately suspended one game from the football team for jumping up on a table on campus and screaming a sexually charged expletive-laced phrase that was made popular on the Internet.

Following the Rose Bowl loss, reports surfaced that Winston was strongly considering returning to school, primarily due to his love for baseball. However, he ultimately chose to pursue a professional football career, one that will be under scrutiny from the second his name is called on draft day.

“As I embark in the next challenge of playing in the NFL, I look forward to contributing to a long line of successful alumni at the next level,” Winston said. “I want you all to know that I will make Seminole Nation proud and continue to bring the passion and love for the game you all have seen in Doak Campbell since my first day as a ‘Nole. Thank you for making my time in Tallahassee some of the best years of my life.”

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