Tampa Bay is learning to like quarterback Jameis Winston.
Former teammates Devonta Freeman knew it all the time.
Freeman, Winston’s teammate at Florida State, was always of the Winston’s competitiveness, of his fight, of his stubbornness. Together, Freeman and Winston won one national title and made the playoffs the next year.
“One of my main memories of him [is] how competitive he was,” Freeman said. “He’s a guy [who has] that killer mentality, like, ‘I won’t stop, I won’t stop, I won’t stop; I want to win, I want to be great.’
“I truly believe that he’s the type of guy who is not in it for nothing but the love of the game. The memories I have with him are just how hard he competed and grinded. After all the success he had, he still was a humble, goofy person, and I just love his character, everything about him. He takes football real serious, but it’s not like the end of the world for him. That’s one thing I really like about him.”
Freeman said he isn’t surprised by Winston’s success.
“No, because I know the type of person he is,” Freeman said. “It may be shocking or surprising to a lot of other people, but I wasn’t surprised by the touchdowns he threw or the success that he’s had, because I know how hard he worked in the film room, on the field and off the field.”
Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn said his team respects Winston.
“[Winston] is somebody that you know when it clicks, like, ‘I understand this; I understand how it goes,’” Quinn said. “We have a couple like that as well, that the young players are starting to understand what is that. But the things that he brings is the decision making, the ability to escape within the pocket – you think you’ve got him and he’s able to slip a shoulder and come up and rip a ball – and I think it goes without saying, we all knew this coming out of college, what the competitor was. And I think he’s proven what the competitor is at this level, as well. He’s a challenge for sure. He’s got our respect. What we’ve seen first-hand and on tape, he’s got our respect.”
Bucs’ offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said that one of Winston’s strengths is how quickly he learns.
“That was one thing (FSU coach) Jimbo Fisher told me is you’ll be amazed by this guy and I’m kind of thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard this before,’” Koetter said. “Jameis is unbelievable how quick he can look at a game plan, take it out on the field and just in a walk-through – it really is impressive. That’s one thing that has amazed me and I’m not easily amazed. That has really amazed me about how fast he can pick things up. It’s not just lip service when he gets up there and talks about learning and getting better. He is really into it and he’s a fast learner.
“I don’t know if surprised is the right word. Happy is probably a better word. I’m very happy.”