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Winston is PG's latest No. 1

Jeff Dahn

Published: Thursday, April 30, 2015

In the last 11 years, seven alumni of the Perfect Game All-American Classic and six alumni of the Perfect Game National Showcase have been selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB June Amateur First-Year Player Draft. Jameis Winston is now the latest No. 1 overall pick, but he’s traded M-L-B for a different set of three letters: N-F-L.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Florida State’s Winston, an alumnus of the 2011 PG All-American Classic and 2011 PG National Showcase, with the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft during a nationally televised event Thursday night in Chicago.

A two-sport standout in both football and baseball at FSU, Winston became the first alumnus of those two prestigious Perfect Game events to win the Heisman Trophy when he received that award in 2013; he now becomes the first alumnus to hear his name called first in the NFL Draft.

Winston was a highly recruited two-sport star during his four years at Hueytown (Ala.) High School (he graduated in 2012). PG ranked him as the No. 48 top national prospect in his graduating class as an outfielder and right-handed pitcher, and ranked him the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country.

Because he made clear his desire to play college football, Winston slid down to the 15th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft where he was selected by the Texas Rangers, who knew they had no hope of signing him.

He ultimately chose Florida State because it was one of the few schools involved in his recruiting process that would allow him to play both football and baseball. “That’s a must,” he told PG while in attendance at the 2011 PG National. “If I can’t play both, I probably won’t go to school.”

Winston was head coach Jimbo Fisher’s starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman in the fall of 2013 and as a redshirt sophomore in 2014, and he led the Seminoles to a 26-1 record as a starter; they were 13-0 during their national championship season in 2013. He finished his college career having completed 66 percent of his passes (562-for-851) for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns with 28 interceptions.

He joined the veteran coach Mike Martin Sr.’s baseball team as a true freshman in the spring of 2013 and played two seasons as a relief pitcher and outfielder. Winston made 41 mound appearances, showing a mid-90s fastball while compiling a 2-2 record with nine saves; he posted a 1.95 ERA in 60 innings with 52 strikeouts and 19 walks. He also hit .209 in 65 games and 158 at-bats.

“This isn’t just a guy that plays baseball for fun. He’s really good at it and he helped us an awful lot,” FSU baseball assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Martin Jr. told PG after Winston was awarded the Heisman Trophy in December 2013.

“You’re always looking for guys that can play, regardless of the sport,” Martin Jr. said later during the same conversation. “You want guys that can turn, guys that can bend and (create) angles, have a bounce in their step – people that want to be out there. It’s our job to make sure they really enjoy doing it, and I think that we’re all chasing guys that are athletic and driven; those are the guys you win with.”

Several of Winston’s off-field discretions while at FSU were scrutinized by the media but at the end of the day the 21-year-old must have shown the Buccaneers’ front office executives and coaching staff a level of maturity that convinced them he can succeed at football’s highest level.

During the December 2013 interview with PG, Martin Jr. even compared some of Winston’s intangible qualities to those of another notable former PG All-American Classic and PG National Showcase alumnus and FSU standout.

“He has the drive, enthusiasm and leadership skills of Buster Posey,” Martin Jr. said, referring to the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 National League Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL Most Valuable Player. “He’s a lot more vocal than Buster was, but he’s as driven, he works his tail off to get better at the game, he’s very coachable and he genuinely cares.”

Kyle Long is the only other alumnus of both the PG All-American Classic and the PG National Showcase to be selected in the first-round of the NFL Draft. Long, the son of former NFL standout Howie Long and the brother of current St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, played at both PG events in 2007.

He originally went to Florida State to play baseball for Martin Sr. but after some off-field issues he switched to football and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round (20th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft out of the University of Oregon. He was the Bears starting right guard in 2013-14 and a two-time Pro Bowler.

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