Jameis, before he was famous

Jameis Winston

Before he was the Heisman Trophy winner, the national champion, the controversial and cocky king of college football, Jameis Winston was a high school kid standing on a practice field in northwest Austin, Texas.

The top quarterback recruit in the country was in town as a member of Team USA, here to play in the International Bowl on signing day. Only problem was he couldn't play or practice because of a shoulder injury.

And so he stood on the sideline on Jan. 29, 2012, watching and waiting. And talking. The kid loves to talk, though everyone knows that now.

Winston was days away from signing with Florida State. Back then, he was a young man with a lot on his mind.

In a previously unpublished interview with ESPN.com, Winston opened up about his dreams and his burdens. The 18-year-old didn't have goals. He had a plan. That plan led him to Florida State.

"Can I lead this team to a national championship?" Winston said then. "That's the most important thing."

Two years later, that's just one of the countless questions he answered.

• • •

If Winston cared so much about national titles, why did he leave home?

Alabama and Auburn had been recruiting the in-state phenom since his ninth-grade year. Both won championships during his time at Hueytown High School. Winston's family was and continues to be filled with Crimson Tide fans.

Why, then, would he pick a school that hadn't won a BCS title since 1999? Why move 300 miles away when the champions are in his backyard?

"I'm on a mission to change a program," Winston said proudly.

Winston was enamored with a challenge: Why join the dynasty when you can start a new one?

"Florida State has been down for a couple of years," Winston said. "I'm going to be able to help rebuild another legacy. At Alabama, hey, I'm from the state of Alabama, that's the best program. I'm aware of what's going to happen at Alabama. They got the top recruiting class coming in. They're going to win no matter what. But who's going to be the person who steps up like Cam Newton?

"Really, I just want to bring the swag back to Florida State, like Deion and Charlie Ward back in the day. Just bring that swag back. Start something new. Start a new trend. It's a new year. It's time for another program to get back."

One year and 11 months later, Winston ascended to that throne. Auburn beat Alabama again. And Winston beat Auburn, in the VIZIO BCS National Championship, completing a perfect 14-0 season that has the Seminoles poised to become the kind of elite powerhouse he envisioned.

Even as a high schooler, Winston understood the magnitude of these championships.

"If you can lead your team to a national title and go down in history … ain't nobody going to forget about the national titles," he said. "People forget about Heisman Trophies. If I can lead my team to the national title, I'm going to have a good chance of winning the Heisman."

Winston had an unmistakable admiration in particular for Newton back then, particularly for how he carried himself and maintained a grin "even when people tried to bring him down." He said he'd model himself after Newton, not knowing then how similar their breakout seasons would end up being.

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