Two plots were dug side by side on the lush Rose Bowl field Monday night. One was for the BCS. Beside it, the SEC’s seven-year streak of consecutive national championships was buried.
Jameis Winston also buried the notion that a freshman had limitations. Johnny Manziel won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman, but Winston did it while leading a program to the pinnacle of college football glory, tossing them over the cliff and going hang gliding over the rest of the nation.
Most of all, celebrations were happening on Monday night. While the BCS collapsed into a pile of rubbles, Jameis Winston rejoiced a national championship victory on his 20th birthday atop the debris.
The final quarter culminated in the greatest finish to a national championship game since Vince Young slithered his sinewy 6-5 frame into the corner of the end zone on 4th and long.
Yes, after butting its unwelcome longhorn into the BCS from a thousand miles away, Texas has also crept into this post-BCS column. Young’s solo victory over USC was the last time a team from outside the SEC won a national championship
Young’s performance turned Winston into a Longhorn fan and more importantly compelled him to follow in Young’s footsteps. We won’t review how his interest in Austin was shunned. What Young did with his legs, Winston accomplished with his arm.
Three of the last four years has featured the Grinch-like grimace of Nick Saban serving as the face of the national champion. Winston and Cam Newton’s upbeat personalities have been a welcome reprieve.
When ESPN’s Ivan Maisel lobbed a curveball question at Winston during the postgame press conference, in regards to Fisher saying he didn’t bring his A-Game, Winston elicited laughter from the press conference by pointing out that Fisher actually called this the best game he’d ever played.
It was typical Winston. Quarterbacks are supposed to be stoic and analytical assassins under center. Like, Newton, Winston is surprisingly disarming. That didn’t prevent him from slowly extracting the hearts of the stunned Tigers in a minute and six seconds on Florida State’s final drive.
The BCS national title game was a departure from his usual method, but he still did it with a slightly restrained version of his convivial demeanor.
It wasn’t just Winston either. The entire team and even the head coach fed off of his infectious positivity. Captain Positivity, Tim Tebow, will be remembered for his intense halftime speech during the 2009 National Championship Game and for the resounding speech he made following the Ole Miss loss earlier that season, which is memorialized in The Swamp.
Before last season's Orange Bowl, current Bills quarterback EJ Manuel held the same pregame pulpit as Winston. His pregame speech was impassioned and had the locker room focused on the task at hand.
Winston’s Churchill moment was a little more lighthearted. His purpose of loosening his teammates up before taking the field against Clemson in the defining game of his career to that point seemed to be the polar opposite of Manuel’s.
Make no mistake about it. Winston’s success isn’t just college rah-rah magic or offensive misdirection. He’s the most immaculate quarterback prospect to shoot out of the gates since Peyton Manning was slangin’ SEC spirals. Newton snuck on much of the establishment as a fourth-year junior.
Winston is a football prodigy. He exudes an aura we saw from one athlete with similar juvenescence. That was an 18-year-old LeBron James. Winston is a hybrid of LeBron's sensibilities and Manning's quarterbacking ability at the same age.
LeBron and Winston are both amicable kindred spirits and happy warriors who clump teammates not named Mario Chalmers and family into one group. They’re also both dual sport athletes. More importantly, they’re proof that nice guys can finish first.
Winston’s debut as a teenage quarterback feels like it occurred eons ago. In reality, his 25-for-27 primetime Monday night football passing performance against Pittsburgh took place on Labor Day Weekend four months ago.
His finish was even more impressive. It took a decade in the spotlight until we witnessed LeBron and Peyton basking in the rays of championship glory. On the national stages they developed a tendency to toss up bricks.
In the first half of the national title game, it appeared Winston would be exposed like Troy Smith, Sam Bradford, Manti Te’o and even Manning (who couldn't beat Florida or win an SEC Championship) before him. Instead, he drove Florida State down the field to save one last throw for the history books and vaulted himself into immortality.
Because of NFL draft eligibility rules, Winston will be returning for a final collegiate season in the fall. If he were able to declare, you can already imagine where he’d be picked. Coming in first is all Winston knows.