ANAHEIM, Calif. — The clouds of Jameis Winston’s off-the-field troubles have cleared for now, and the Florida State quarterback emerged in the dazzling Southern California sun on Saturday firmly focused on his quest for a second national title.
In his first public appearance since he was cleared of violating Florida State’s student code of conduct, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner claimed he is neither distracted nor relieved by the latest development surrounding an alleged sexual assault two years ago.
“I really don’t focus on that,” Winston said. “I usually just use football as my sanctuary, and I focus on my academics and do the things I need to do.”
Winston certainly found his happy place on Saturday. Winston and fellow Heisman winner Marcus Mariota joined their teammates and Mickey Mouse at the Disney California Adventure park to kick off the festivities around the 101st Rose Bowl, which is also a College Football Playoff semifinal this year.
The No. 2 Seminoles (13-0) and their 29-game winning streak are facing No. 3 Oregon (12-1), the betting favorites and Pac-12 champions. Florida State’s hopes rest heavily on a standout game from Winston after an up-and-down season that left him unable to contend with Mariota for another Heisman.
Coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t worried about his quarterback’s ability — or about Winston’s fitness to carry the weight of the latest allegations against him.
“I think it isn’t for him as much for his family,” Fisher said. “For his grandmother. For his mother. For his father. For his little brother. The people who are in your family, because they carry that burden with him. Jameis compartmentalizes.”
Indeed, Winston made no extensive comments about the latest step in the lengthy proceedings around the allegations against him. Winston was not arrested, and a local prosecutor already decided he didn’t have enough evidence to charge Winston after a woman accused him of raping her in December 2012.
Appeals and civil suits are still possible, but the ruling likely means Winston is free to chase another title into the championship game Jan. 12, if the Seminoles beat Oregon. Winston also is expected to be a high pick in the upcoming NFL draft if he forgoes his final two seasons of eligibility next year.
“This whole season has been the same,” Winston said. “Because I come here to play football, get my academics right, and I really wasn’t focused on anything other than that.”
The Seminoles have traveled cross-country for the second time in two seasons: Florida State beat Auburn for the BCS national championship on the same hallowed turf last January. Winston sees this game as more of a privilege than an advantage over the Ducks, who won the Rose Bowl three years ago and beat UCLA in the same stadium this season.
“We’ve been here before, and we get to play on that beautiful stadium again,” Winston said. “That’s a dream, kind of a football heaven for us. Our wide receivers and us love playing on that great grass. But at the end of the day, it’s another football game. We’re not thinking about last year. We’re not thinking about the future.”
Winston also declined to speculate on whether he’ll enter the draft, or even whether he plans to play baseball again for Florida State in the spring.
The quarterback is focused only on another big finish on his season.
— after he accomplished another big goal on Saturday.
“The main thing I’m trying to do is get me a smoked turkey leg and put some hot sauce on that bad boy and eat it,” Winston said with a smile. “Because those things are good. I’m hungry.”