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Fame Manager

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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While preparing for its highly-anticipated tilt with Clemson, FSU, especially Jameis Winston, will have to make a concerted effort to fight off the fanfare.

Let me say this now, I am glad Winston is on my team.
~Jimbo Fisher

After Jameis Winston completed 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in his collegiate debut, one where he was stepping in for a departed first round NFL Draft pick in E.J. Manuel, the question surrounding Florida State's new quarterback was no longer whether or not he could play. The new uncertainty was if Winston could continue to meet the downright silly standard he just set, all with seemingly-unrealistic expectations joining opposing defenses in trying to bring him down. Nearing mid-October, the answer has become quite obvious.

Through five games, Winston has completed over 73% of his throws for 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns and ranks second in college football with a passer rating of 213.9. The redshirt freshman signal caller from just outside Birmingham has become a national sensation in less than half a season. He has the Seminoles poised for a run at the BCS Championship. Winston, with a dazzling highlight reel that causes even more of a double take than his stat sheet, is now a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. He is one of college football's leading names.

Winston, all 6'4'', 228 pounds of him, has a charisma that matches his game. He is casual but engaging, funny but poignant. He has a personality that seems to, as effortlessly as his throws, perfectly fit every situation. Back at Florida State media day, before he was officially named the starting quarterback, Winston was hosting interviews with teammates, sarcastically speaking in third person, cracking jokes far and wide and discussing his love of cheeseballs. Fast forward two months and "Famous Jameis" is a now a cult hero in Tallahassee and a superstar from coast-to-coast. 

Last Saturday, the Seminoles barely broke a sweat in a 63-0 shellacking of 25th ranked Maryland. The win tied the largest margin of victory ever over a ranked team. Winston calmly threw for a career-high 393 yards and five touchdowns. He was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, the Athlon Sports National Player of the Week, the College Football Performance Awards Performer of the Week and the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week.   

"I'm going to enjoy this day right here because it felt like a Little League football game out there; 12 o'clock, the sun was out. I don't think I saw a cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful day, so I'm going to enjoy this day," Winston beamed after his record-setting game. "I'm really looking forward to playing Clemson. They have a great team and we're going to Death Valley. It's a great environment. It should be fun."

The challenge now becomes managing the madness. 

Florida State has an off week to prepare for a season-shaping showdown at division rival Clemson. It's the perfect prelude for the biggest game of the year. It's also complacency's ideal invitation. Team leadership will be put to the test.

With Winston leading the way, the Seminoles have surged ahead to 6th in the national polls. The hype is building accordingly. For the next two weeks, that attention won't have an actual gridiron gauge; the news cycle will set and move the chains. While preparing for its highly-anticipated tilt with the Tigers, Florida State will have to make a concerted effort to fight off the fanfare. That sentiment is especially true for Winston, an impressive young man who, despite what we have seen, has to be at least somewhat subject to the frailties of humanity.

Winston, mature beyond his years, has been remarkably resilient so far. His introductory performance and first game against a ranked foe included, Winston has stood bright-eyed and wide-smiled in adversity's frowning face. After the first interception of his career, thrown in the second quarter against Nevada, Winston promptly completed 13-of-13 passes for 184 and two touchdowns and added a rushing score before spending the rest of the day relaxing on the bench. With his team down 17-3 at Boston College, Winston completed seven straight attempts and threw three scoring passes in just over ten minutes to give FSU a halftime lead. His final score came, after spinning away from tacklers, on a 55-yard heave as time expired.

"Let me say this now, I am glad Winston is on my team," head coach Jimbo Fisher explained in the postgame press conference. "He's a great competitor and he's a fun guy to coach."

Before he ever took a snap, Winston was a name most people knew. He was ranked by multiple recruiting services as the top prep quaterback in the country in the class of 2012. ESPN football analyst Trent Dilfer claimed he would be a future number one overall pick in the draft. Former FSU quarterback and current ESPN personality Danny Kanell said he was the most talented person to every play quarterback at the school. Though Winston redshirted on the football field, he played baseball his first year on campus and is considered a dynamic prospect on the diamond. Of all of his incredible throws, Winston's most famous toss arguably came from the side of the road over a Florida State frat house. His legend has been growing ever since.     

Even just five games in, Winston's role has completely changed. From potential to production, he now sets the tone for a bonafide national championship contender. Fisher praises his intelligence. Veterans now follow his lead. More so, both fans and pundits feel like Winston just might be the next in line behind Ward and Weinke, a reference not just reserved for alphabetical order.

Winston, who has stated he wants to pursue a career in otolaryngology after football, has handled it all in stride. Maintaining that focus, continuing that theme is the key to both and he and the 'Noles taking the next big step.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports