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Surrounded by family, Jameis Winston soaks in joy of NFL draft

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Share This Story!Let friends in your social network know what you are reading aboutSurrounded by family, Jameis Winston soaks in joy of NFL draftWinston sets out on new path after being drafted No. 1 overall by Buccaneers.Post to Facebook
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Sent!A link has been sent to your friend’s email address.Posted!A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Join the Nation’s ConversationTo find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY Sports 11:27 p.m. EDT April 30, 2015UP NEXT03
With the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft the Buccaneers select Jameis Winston.
Jameis Winston of Florida State is selected as the No.1 pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL draft.(Photo: Marvin Gentry, USA TODAY Sports)BESSEMER, Ala. – When the moment of validation came on Thursday night, Jameis Winston took a seat on the edge of a coffee table in a crowded living room, surrounded by his parents, his grandmother, his girlfriend and a couple dozen other family members and friends.It was 7:06 local time, and Winston clutched his smartphone (fittingly, a red mobile device) to listen carefully to the man on the other end of the line, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht.”What’s up, Mr. Licht?” Winston said amid the hushed room in the center of a family friend’s sprawling home.A pause, then a response: “I’m doing pretty good.”After a brief conversation, Winston hung up and made an announcement, a few minutes before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it official in Chicago.”I’m going to Tampa Bay!” he screamed.USA TODAYArmour: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota will be measured against each otherThe room erupted in cheers. There were hug, whoops and a lot of hollering. An infant wailed, too, no doubt crying in joy.Never mind walking across the stage in Chicago to christen the NFL Draft as the Buccaneers’ chosen one. This was the unique scene that the former Florida State quarterback – the first No. 1 pick overall not to attend the draft since Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson in 1994 – chose for the backdrop of his history.”This is a surreal moment,” Winston told reporters a few minutes later, having moved outside the home. “I’m so thankful, so blessed.”He was relieved, too.”I can’t wait to get to Tampa,” he said. “I have a team again.”That team, which in

its 39-year history has never had a quarterback earn more than one Pro Bowl selection, is banking on Winston to lead it to the promised land of glory and championships.”It’s just the beginning,” promised Winston, 21, who can now throw to a pair of tall, big-play receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.For his part, Winston, as expected, is eager to start a new chapter. With his parents, Antonor and Loretta, standing nearby, he insisted that the questions about his character and the intense scrutiny that have fueled debate have not affected his psyche.USA TODAYTampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston with top pick of NFL draftYet he admitted that the noise did affect one of the closest members of his inner circle – his grandmother, Myrtle Winston.”She’s emotional,” he said. “And she reads everything.”She can exhale now. And Winston, who was moved to tears as he put on his new Bucs cap and hugged family and friends after the pick was announced, can take off, too. He will be introduced in Tampa on Friday.”This is like graduation day,” Winston’s quarterback tutor, George Whitfield, told USA TODAY Sports. “This process hasn’t weighed on him. It’s been more like, ‘Let’s go,’ rather than the two-ton weight that it is for most kids. It’s like getting that green light on the runway to take off.”There’s little question about his talent and potential on the field. Winston, with a Heisman Trophy and national championship on his resume, was 26-1 as a starter at Florida State. Scouts rave about his football IQ, an element of his game – complete with advanced audibles and checks – that has been overlooked by all of the off-the-field drama.Speaking of which, Smith and Licht expect that the worst of the drama is behind Winston, and are ready to sell him to their fan base as their legitimate face of the franchise.USA TODAYTennessee Titans select Marcus Mariota second overall pick in NFL draftWhile acknowledging concern about the incidents that sullied Winston’s reputation, Smith told me at the NFL scouting combine in February that he didn’t feel Winston’s slip-ups – including a shoplifting citation for walking off from a super market with crab legs and a vulgar chant at the student union that resulted in a one-game suspension — were enough to warrant the death penalty.As for the most serious matter, alleged sexual assault, Winston was investigated by various authorities in multiple proceedings. He was never implicated.All of this combined to make Winston arguably the most-scrutinized top draft pick in NFL history. The Bucs have gone to great lengths in vetting his case – and comparing Winston to former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who went No. 2 to the Tennessee Titans — and this is their final answer.Winston’s their man.They had better be right. If Winston doesn’t pan out, and if there are issues beyond the basics of having a strong supporting cast on the football field, Smith and Licht won’t be around for the next coach and GM to try to fix it.PHOTOS: 2015 NFL first-round draft picksPost to FacebookPosted!A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Last SlideNext SlideOf course, that can be said for any top pick. Yet it’s deeper for Winston, who, according to people close to him, has viewed the draft process and the intense scrutiny as a steep learning curve.”The scrutiny that he deals with on a daily basis is unlike anything I’ve ever seen for anybody,” one of Winston’s agents, Greg Genske, told USA TODAY Sports. Genske and his partner, Kenny Felder, have represented dozens of clients, primarily baseball players.”I think he’s not only approached it as part of the process, but he’s embraced it. He’s realized how important every decision is that he makes.”The scrutiny won’t stop now. As Winston said, it’s just beginning.Only now there are some new parameters, with the face of the franchise suddenly being accountable to new coaches, new teammates and a new fan base.Winston and the Bucs are now on the clock for the ultimate purpose of hitting the jackpot.Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.LATEST NFL DRAFT VIDEOSTampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston | 01:07With the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft the Buccaneers select Jameis Winston.
LATEST NFL DRAFT VIDEOSTennessee Titans select Marcus Mariota | 01:09With the second pick of the 2015 NFL draft the Titans select Marcus Mariota.
LATEST NFL DRAFT VIDEOS2015 NFL draft: Offensive picks’ strengths and weaknesses | 02:34Russ Lande discusses the offensive strengths and weaknesses of the top picks in the 2015 NFL draft.
USA TODAY SportsLATEST NFL DRAFT VIDEOSSix NFL draft prospects who will make immediate impact | 01:39Russ Lande discusses six players he thinks will provide immediate value to whichever team selects them in the upcoming draft.
LATEST NFL DRAFT VIDEOSNFL veterans break down Amari Cooper’s game | 00:49USA TODAY Sports talked to some notable NFL wide receivers to get their take on Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and what his impact will be.
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