Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has won the Heisman Trophy, taking college football’s top individual prize tonight after a record-breaking debut season. A 19-year-old redshirt freshman, Winston becomes the youngest player to ever claim the award.
Only a week ago, Winston’s Heisman hopes — and season — seemed in peril as he was at the center of a sexual assault investigation. But state attorney Willie Meggs decided to not charge Winston in the Dec. 7, 2012 incident, saying there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction. That cleared the way for Winston to reclaim his status as the frontrunner for the award.
His victory speech tonight hit on the theme of “trusting the process,” a clear nod to the legal troubles that had followed him in the previous month.
“Because after all of the things I’ve been through in the past month,” Winston said, “I remember what my dad said, ‘trust in the process.’”
Winston drew 668 first-place votes and 2,205 points from a panel of media members and former winners, good for the seventh-largest margin of victory in the history of the award. He managed that large margin despite being left off 115 of the 900 ballots.
In the largest field of candidates since 1994, Winston followed Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s footsteps in becoming only the second freshman to win the award.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron finished a distant second, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was third, Boston College running back Andrew Williams was fourth, Manziel was fifth and Auburn running back Tre Mason finished sixth in the voting.
Winston is also the third quarterback from Florida State to win the Heisman, joining Charlie Ward from 1993 and Chris Weinke from 2000. He did it without much of the preseason hype that has accompanied winners in the past, not even earning the starting position for the Seminoles until a couple weeks before the start of the season.
But Winston’s dazzling debut was the rare performance that exceeded the hype, hinting at the season to come.
Winston went on to set FBS freshman records for yards passing (3,820) and touchdown passes (38), leading No. 1 Florida State (13-0) into the BCS National Championship against No. 2 Auburn. His 190.6 passer efficiency rating is tops in the country and is on pace to set an NCAA record.