Bucs’ Win­ston not lack­ing con­fi­dence

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - GE­ORGE DIAZ

True con­fes­sion: I tried hard to think of the down­side of Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers quar­ter­back Jameis Win­ston pro­claim­ing he wants to be the “great­est of all-time” some­day.

Surely this is an ego mal­func­tion. A good thought gone bad in the prac­ti­cal con­text. Too much pres­sure, and any­body can spring a leak.

But you can’t climb a moun­tain if you’re con­tent hang­ing around base camp with ev­ery­body else not fit for the jour­ney.

Jameis is all in on Jameis. And that’s a great thing.

“Ul­ti­mately I want to be the great­est of all time, one day,” Win­ston told the NFL Net­work re­cently. “That has to be your goal. Peo­ple al­ways say ‘that’ll never hap­pen’ but I don’t know that’ll never hap­pen un­til I’m done. So I’m go­ing to do any­thing that I can to be great.”

Those are mighty big words for a kid who, at 23, is en­ter­ing his third sea­son in the NFL. He has thrown 1,102 passes in his brief ca­reer, with 50 touch­downs and 33 in­ter­cep­tions.

To com­pare and con­trast, Tom Brady of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots has thrown 8,224 passes in his ca­reer, with 456 TDs and 152 in­ter­cep­tions. I’m not sug­gest­ing Tommy Boy is the best ever, but he’s def­i­nitely in the con­ver­sa­tion.

And he ob­vi­ously pro­vides a solid mea­sur­ing stick for the work that lies ahead for Win­ston in Tampa Bay. And Jameis is def­i­nitely “chop­ping wood” as goes the mantra in the NFL, over at One Buc Place.

“[I want to] be bet­ter than last year,” Win­ston said. “And af­ter that, be bet­ter the next year.”

Ev­ery­thing points to a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion — and a nice uptick — on the field, es­pe­cially now that Win­ston has a few more tal­ented guys to play pitch-and-catch with in 2017. Meet Win­ston’s new friends, wide re­ceiver DeSean Jack­son and tight end O.J. Howard.

There is po­ten­tial for an im­plo­sion. There al­ways is. For Win­ston, that likely points to an off-the-field mis­ad­ven­ture.

But Win­ston has done noth­ing to give his crit­ics bul­lets to load into the cham­ber since his rocky ca­reer at Florida State. His his­tory in Tal­la­has­see in­cludes se­ri­ous cir­cum­stances (rape al­le­ga­tion but no charges) and silly cir­cum­stances (Google “Win­ston” and “crab legs.”).

There was a slipup dur­ing a pep talk to kids last Fe­bru­ary that was con­strued as wildly sex­ist by some. “The ladies, sit down. But all my boys, stand up,” Win­ston told a group of fifth-graders. “We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right?”

It wasn’t a good look, made worse by Win­ston’s past at FSU. But Win­ston im­me­di­ately owned up to his faux pas.

In­stead of shy­ing away at Tampa Bay, Win­ston has stepped up and firmly cast him­self as a fol­low-the-leader kind of player. He is the face of the fran­chise and will be for an­other decade or so as­sum­ing there are no hic­cups.

He will be rat­ings gold as we shift into the pre­sea­son, and HBO starts air­ing Hard Knocks, set to de­but Aug. 8. Win­ston has al­ready agreed to give the HBO cameras a bit of ex­tra ac­cess into his world.

Win­ston is al­ways go­ing to get a mix of cheers and jeers, ar­guably for a long time. Some peo­ple can’t for­give and for­get his trans­gres­sions at FSU. Oth­ers have moved on long ago.

All Win­ston can do is look for­ward, and that’s ex­actly what he’s do­ing by mark­ing that bulls­eye on his No. 3 jer­sey. Some may call it ego and cock­i­ness gone awry. I pre­fer to call it hon­esty.

NFL locker rooms are full of bor­ing cliches, a “one game at a time” mumbo-jumbo of noth­ing. Jameis Win­ston has some­thing to say, and it is sig­nif­i­cant.

Some­times when you crave the spotlight it can burn you. Or it can shine a light that makes you look even more im­pres­sive.

We’re about to find out with Jameis Win­ston. Let’s tune in and watch what hap­pens.

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