The annual pre-Heisman press conference in New York City got a little awkward on Friday afternoon as Florida State handlers temporarily cut off quarterback Jameis Winston from fielding questions after the Heismn favorite received a couple queries related to the aftermath of the investigation into his alleged involvement in a sexual assault case.
When asked about what he had learned from the experience of being accused — but ultimately not charged — with a serious felony, Winston answered “It was stressful, but I’ve got to look forward. There’s a lot to learn from it. I’m focused on the future. I love my college experience.”
Another reporter asked Winston to elaborate and that’s when Seminoles associate sports information director Kerwin Lonzo sternly interjected that “(Winston’s) only talking about football and the Heisman.”
After one more reporter asked a tangential question, Lonzo interrupted again: “Next question,” he said.
The exchange caused some consternation among the assembled media.
Dumb PR strategy by Florida State to cut off non-football questions before a direct one got asked. Now it’ll be asked after he wins.
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) December 13, 2013
Wow. FSU sports info just pulled Winston out before 2nd half of media session, said he was done. Tim Jansen also was here FWIW
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 13, 2013
Winston got 3 questions that were somewhat related to the investigation before FSU media cut that line off.
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 13, 2013
To Lonzo’s credit, he brought Winston back to face media again and the freshman did a great job handling the spotlight. About the investigation he said: “I knew I could respect the process and I’d eventually be vindicated.”
Other than those awkward moments with Winston, the rest of the event went off without a hitch. Here’s five of the six candidates with the Heisman:
Some more highlights:
— When asked about his goals as a two-sport star (he also plays baseball for FSU) Winston said “I want to be better than Bo Jackson, hopefully.”
— Winston got some advice from Johnny Manziel, who also won the award as a redshirt freshman. “He told me to just enjoy the moment. That’s what I’m going to do.”
— Boston College running back Andre Williams had 1,532 rushing yards in his first three seasons and 2,102 yards as a senior. Why the sudden transformation as a senior?
“This year I embraced who I am as a runner,” said Williams. “I played at a heavier weight than in the past. I wasn’t worried about shaking people. I just did what I do best, which is to be a physical, downhill back.”
— Tre Mason said that new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has instilled a never-say-die spirit with the Tigers. “Everyone on the team believes the game isn’t over until it’s over,” Mason said. “You’ve seen the crazy games we’ve had this year. No one quits until the game is over.”
— Johnny Manziel wasn’t saying whether he plans to go pro, but he perked up at the idea of playing for either Houston or Dallas. “For now, I’m strictly focused on the bowl game. Things will take care of themselves in Janary,” he said of the NFL. talk. “But I love Texas. Just being in Texas would be incredible.”
— Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch: “Being here is a dream come true. It’s kind of surreal. I just know I’m here with the best.” Later, he added: “This is awesome, but I would trade it all to get that MAC championship victory,” referring to his team’s upset at the hands of Bowling Green.
Lynch was confident about his future: “I think my skill will pay off in the NFL. I don’t think I can run the ball 290 times, but I’m sure I could carry it 100 times or so.”
— Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was not at the press conference since he was not yet in town due to the Unitas Award ceremony. He’ll be here in time for Saturday’s big event.