Winston the same, despite opinion

"Everything we went through in Hueytown, it was a blessing that helped us through [the past year]," Antonor says. "God sends you on a path not knowing you're going to go through the wilderness, but when you do, you have all the tools to fight it. We're just waiting to come back on the other side of the path."

Asked when the family might emerge from the darkness, Antonor pauses and collects himself. He has thought ahead, about another run to a Heisman or the NFL draft, about how all the stories will be written again and all the questions will be asked with renewed vigor. There is a light ahead, he's sure, but the wilderness stretches onward beyond the horizon.

"I don't know," he says. "Only time can tell."


Chad Babin was at home in Texas a few weeks ago when his phone buzzed. It was Jameis, hoping to FaceTime with his former coach.

Babin is one of Antonor Winston's closest friends, and he has always looked at Jameis as a surrogate son. Babin's wife gets a card from Winston every Mother's Day, and Babin even got a mention in Winston's Heisman speech.

Babin answered the call, and Winston was laughing.

"Look at this," the quarterback chirped, panning back to show two Florida State students following close behind with their own phones glowing in their hands. They'd followed Winston into a men's room on campus, shot video of the Heisman winner at a urinal while shouting "It's Famous Jameis" as they recorded.

"I don't think any of us had realized the extent of his popularity," Babin said. "And people don't realize what that brings."

At Florida State's annual fan day this past week, more than 100 people were in line by 8 a.m. to meet Winston. He wasn't scheduled to arrive for another five hours, and, in the interim, police were called to break up numerous scuffles.

When Antonor suggested his son needed round-the-clock security in the wake of the shoplifting citation this spring, it garnered national headlines, but the reality is Famous Jameis is constantly at the center of a storm.

A year ago, the storm swallowed up Manziel, who posted on Twitter that he "can't wait" to leave Texas A&M to escape the glare that came with being a Heisman winner in a college town. But Winston hasn't been fazed.

"I walk around campus every day," Winston said. "People say hey, we speak. That's how it is in Tallahassee, such great people. I take a lot of pictures."

Still, what awaits Winston this season is unique. The spotlight is unflinching, and he's not perfect. He might have matured, but past mistakes still haunt him. He's unwilling to play the part of the reclusive superstar, but there is a danger in being so exposed. He has lived it already.

"I don't know that there's any amount of preparation that could get you ready to be this guy," said Scott, his high school coach, "to stay focused on those goals in the midst of the storm around him."

Florida State has provided Winston with near-constant security. It has taken out an insurance policy against future earnings that could potentially be lost. A potential civil suit in the wake of the rape allegation still looms, and the Winstons understand there could be more lawyers and controversy ahead. Fisher has talked with Winston often about what awaits and armed him with advice from other stars who've lived in the public eye.

"I think he can handle it," Fisher said. "I think he'll do a great job with it, but I always worry about it."

Winston isn't worried.

"I'll be even better than last year," he said. "I'll be myself. I'll be great."

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