Photos from Florida State QB Jameis Winston's private workout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tallahassee, Florida.
Jameis Winston was leading a group of about a dozen people from the Florida State football offices to the nearby Al Dunlap Athletic Training Facility when he saw a familiar face among the flow of students moving in the opposite direction.
Winston knew Martin because he played two seasons on the FSU baseball team as a reliever and an outfielder. Winston has promise on the diamond, particularly as a pitcher (a 1.94 ERA in 60.1 career innings for the Seminoles), but as his answer to his former coach indirectly indicated, his immediate future is on the gridiron. His professional football career could soon begin in Tampa, if he can convince the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he is worthy of the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
It was in that pursuit, in fact, that Winston was on his way from a meeting room in the bowels of the football offices to the practically-new Dunlap indoor field. With him, among others, was a group of Buccaneer officials that included Head Coach Lovie Smith, General Manager Jason Licht, Director of Player Personnel Jon Robinson, Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter and Quarterbacks Coach Mike Bajakian.
That Buccaneer crew had arrived on the FSU campus early Wednesday morning, after spending Tuesday in Eugene, Oregon to go through the same process with Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota. With Offensive Line Coach George Warhop joining the Bucs' party in Tallahassee to get a closer look at FSU O-Line prospects Cam Erving, Tre' Jackson, Josue Matias and Bobby Hart, the team met with that quartet before turning its attention to Winston. An Xs-and-Os session led by Bajakian took a little over an hour, and then the group headed next door to watch Winston throw.
As with Mariota the day before, the Buccaneers put Winston through a fast pace and not overly-long throwing session that was heavy on issues such as footwork and quick decision-making. And, like Mariota, Winston performed well under the single-team spotlight.
"I'd say the same about both of them," said Bajakian, who helped Koetter conduct the workout while Licht, Smith and Robinson stood off to the side. "They're obviously both very talented and they do a great job in all aspects, not just with their physical ability but mentally. Another piece of the whole evaluation is getting to know them, getting to know what makes them tick, getting to know – if we're going to coach either one of them – how to get through to them and how they'll interact with their teammates, how they'll lead their teammates, the intangibles that they have. They're both such high-quality football players with great work ethic and great personalities. It just gives us the opportunity to evaluate both of them in different settings."
Indeed, the Buccaneers have now seen Winston at the NFL Scouting Combine, at the Florida State Pro Day and now in a more secluded setting. They've had him at One Buccaneer Place for a lengthy heart-to-heart and they have, of course, watched hundreds of hours of game tape. With the draft now just over three weeks away, the team certainly has a very solid scouting report on Winston, and Mariota for that matter. Still, every bit of evaluation that is allowed can be considered important when preparing for a decision of this magnitude.
"It's all a small piece of the puzzle," said Bajakian. "Every opportunity that you get to work with these guys, to meet with them, you're able to evaluate a lot of things: How well they learn, how coachable they are, how quickly they can pick up any techniques you're trying to coach or concepts you're installing on the board. You're testing their football knowledge, because there's so much that goes into the evaluation process and into these meetings and these workouts. But every time you have a chance to sit down with one of these young men, you're able to get a more in-depth evaluation."
The Buccaneers have seen Winston make every throw, thanks most importantly to his game tape. They've only had so many opportunities to have him diagram plays, however, and they've only had one chance to work with him privately on the field. Bajakian said that Winston did a "great job" articulating the Seminoles' offense and quickly grasping new concepts in the meeting room. On the Al Dunlap turf, Winston not only threw well but also proved to be a charismatic figure.
"He's got a lot of positive energy, that was evident," said Bajakian. "It's evident on video when you watch him and it's evident when you see how he carries himself around his teammates and his coaches. We watched the Pro Day workout, how he's interacting with his teammates among all those spectators and coaches and evaluators, and he obviously has an influence on them. He has a lot of energy about him and that energy affects his teammates in a positive way."