Roy Exum: Let’s Lighten Up On Jameis

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - by Roy Exum

Put me down as one who viewed Jameis Winston’s remarks following the National Championship victory with pure, unabashed delight early Tuesday morning. But, no, there were immediate detractors who pointed out his poor grammar, his emotional stumbles and his off-the top comments were hardly befitting a Heisman Trophy winner who just won the Most Valuable Player Award.

Please! Let’s all remember this is a kid who, on the night of his 20th birthday, had just guided his Seminole teammates 80 yards on just seven plays in 58 seconds to seal as exciting a comeback as has ever been seen in college football. He hadn’t even caught his breath before ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi cornered him before the awards presentation.

But Dee Dee Bonner, the mother of Alabama’s gifted A.J. McCarron, quickly tweeted, “Am I listening to English?” while The Tide quarterback’s glamour girlfriend Katherine Webb added her two cents, “Jameis Winston needs to learn sign language to communicate because listening to him attempt to speak English is just insulting.”

Oh heavens? You’ll remember that Winston beat out McCarron in the Heisman voting and – within a few minutes – both rants were removed. By the break of dawn Dee Dee (no grammarian herself) was back-pedaling faster than her son in any given first quarter. “Any1 that knows our family knows we R far from racist. My tweet was not in any way meant that way. I sincerely apologize if it offended any1.”

Winston’s comments were perfect. After a scandal-filled year, where a state attorney declines to press rape charges, the star quarterback told Rinaldi, "We are champions together," he gasped before being ushered to the dais to collect his MVP award and kiss the BCS trophy. "And through everything that we went through—through all the haters, through every single thing—we came out victorious."

What in the world is wrong with that? I was hoping Auburn would win, extending a Cinderella string, but the sports lover came out in me when FSU began to click after trailing 21-10 at the half. Winston was incredible on the last drive and did exactly what an All-American is expected to do. We all know he is hardly a Shakespeare on the stage but, after years of listening to college athletes, I thought the redshirt freshman did an awesome job.

* * *

AUBURN RUNNING back Tre Mason broke the SEC’s single-season rushing record late in the game when he darted 37 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 1:19 remaining in the game to put Auburn ahead by 4.  Mason ran for 195 yards against the stout Seminole defense, carrying the ball 34 times and scoring again on a 12-yard reception. Mason, who had a startling 304 yards rushing on 46 carries in the SEC title game, closed the year with 1,861 yards, topping Jackson’s 1,786-yard performance in 1985 when he won the Heisman Trophy.

After the game, the crest-fallen Mason said. “I’m just upset with myself, I feel like I didn’t cap it off for the Auburn fans. My goal was to come in here and have the biggest turnaround in college football and win the national championship and I feel like … I want to apologize to them because I feel like I let them down.”

* * *

ESPN came out with its “Way Too Early Top 25” on Tuesday following Florida’s State victory and the SEC, which had its string of seven national titles snapped by the Seminoles, had eight teams on the early list.

ESPN promptly picked FSU as the No. 1 team for the 2014 regular season because Winston has a huge number of veteran players returning under Jimbo Fisher. Alabama is No. 2, followed by Oregon, Stanford, and Auburn.

Michigan State Is No. 6, followed by UCLA, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and LSU. Georgia is at No. 11 followed by Baylor, South Carolina, Southern Cal and Wisconsin. Texas A&M is No. 16, followed by North Carolina, Clemson, Washington, and Ole Miss. Iowa is No. 21 with Arizona State, Notre Dame, Central Florida and Florida closing out the list.

* * *

DID YOU KNOW Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who was just voted as the college Coach of the Year, makes it a point to never say a cuss word. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs told reporters last week that he has “never heard him say a word that would be offensive to anyone, but the thing about it is, what he says, his words and his deeds match up. That develops respect and therefore develops trust.”

Malzahn constantly uses words like “crud,” “crap,” “darn” or “frigging” but, devoutly religious, won’t utter anything worse. And the players say that makes it even worse when he chews somebody out. “It’s way worse,” said center Reese Dismukes. “I would much rather be cussed out, 10 times out of 10, than be yelled at by Coach Malzahn.”

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