From here, he is expected to be handed the Heisman on Saturday in New York, where Winston should become the second freshman in two years to win the award, joining Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
“He’s a big kid that obviously in the past couple of months had to deal with a lot of stuff,” Manziel said Wednesday. “It’s impressive just how he’s handled that and how he’s continued to play and help his team.”
Nine awards will be handed out Thursday night on ESPN, including the Maxwell and O’Brien. Winston is joined by Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Manziel as the finalists for both. The three also will be among the six players invited to New York on Saturday for the Heisman announcement.
FSU cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is a finalist for the Thorpe (top defensive back), and Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo is a finalist for the Groza (top placekicker).
Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins was named the winner of the John Mackey Award on Wednesday as the top tight end. He beat out FSU’s Nick O’Leary, a former Dwyer High standout, and North Carolina’s Eric Ebron.
Winston was cleared last Thursday after being investigated for three weeks for an alleged sexual assault. Manziel has dealt with several much less serious off-field issues since winning the Heisman a year ago. The NCAA investigated allegations that he broke rules by receiving payments for signing autographs. Although he was cleared, Texas A&M forced him to sit the first half of the Aggies’ opener.
Manziel wasn’t prepared for the fishbowl existence that came with winning the award.
“Just how big things boomed and spread out across the entire country, (the) world after that was nothing like I had expected,” he said. Manziel has kept a much lower profile since the season started. “I was tired of being scrutinized so much, and the only way to get away was just not do anything.”
As a former winner, Manziel has a Heisman vote. He wouldn’t reveal his vote but did say he didn’t vote for himself first or second.
“I’m going to follow the Heisman trust and keep that quiet,” he said.
McCarron, a senior, has quietly gone about his business, seemingly under the radar despite leading the Tide to back-to-back titles and losing just three games in his three seasons as a starter.
This is the first time he has been a finalist for the Heisman, Maxwell and O’Brien.
“It proved a lot of people wrong,” McCarron said about being invited to Orlando and New York. “I feel like I earned it. My three years starting, I’ll put my numbers up to anybody in the county.”
Winston is on his way to becoming one of the most decorated players in the history of college football. He already has won every award possible from the ACC (player of the year, offensive player of the year, rookie of the year, offensive rookie of the year). If he sweeps the three major awards this week and FSU wins the national title game Jan. 6 against Auburn, it would difficult to find a player with a more decorated season.
Winston, who has thrown for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading FSU to a 13-0 record, typically deflected the praise during the media availability Wednesday, saying several times he wouldn’t be in this position if not for his teammates and coaches. He said the biggest thrill if he wins any awards Thursday night will be looking in the crowd to see his family and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said.
Noteworthy: Winston, Joyner, Aguayo and offensive lineman Cameron Erving were named first team All-Americans by USA Today.