“You control your own destiny. You control the decisions you make, you control the mistakes you make and, more importantly, you control all of your successes. I’ve got a strong background of getting in trouble and doing the wrong thing, but you bounce back.” - Jameis Winston, via theundefeated.com
Those words were spoken by Winston to a youth football camp at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida back in 2016 - three months after he allegedly groped a female Uber driver.
I don’t think it’s necessary to explain the irony here.
I know it’s tough for a 24-year old to stay on the right side of the road. I’ve been there myself. But dammit, I never once got drunk and attempted to grab a woman’s crotch without her permission.
The “I was too drunk” excuse doesn’t work. Not when you’ve been accused of rape just a few years prior.
Yes, Winston has not been actually declared guilty nor has there been any empirical proof other then the driver’s story being deemed as credible, but the fact remains that he has once again put himself in an irredeemable position in the public eye.
I still remember the day Tampa Bay drafted Jameis Winston. I remember thinking to myself “here we go” as he took the Bucs’ phone call, his face beaming with joy and that notorious smile reaching from ear to ear.
After time and above the surface, however, it seemed something had changed. Winston was out in the community working with charities and underprivileged children. He set up multiple foundations and youth programs throughout the Tampa Bay area - all while keeping the proverbial nose clean and staying out of trouble.
We were all fooled and it didn’t take long.
The incident that has taken the Bucs by storm happened in March 2016, just three months after Winston’s rookie season ended. All the while, until the story broke in November of 2017, he was living with this skeleton in his closet while we played our part in the game.
Many of us defended him when others blasted him for his past grievances. We would say things like “he’s really a good guy, he just made a mistake” or “you’ve just got to see what he does for the community and how he deals with his teammates”.
Well, those days are long gone now. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in their right mind who is willing to give Winston the benefit of the doubt if this situation ever pops up again.
It obviously didn’t occur to him that he is the face of this franchise. He cannot hang out with felons convicted of rape. He cannot get belligerent enough to the point where he has to be taken home.
He cannot become a stain on the franchise, yet that’s what he has done.
This year held so much potential for Winston and the Bucs and despite the current predicament, it still does. But who knows how long this dark cloud will hang over the franchise? It may be around for as long as Winston stays in Tampa Bay, which could haunt the Bucs for a while.
To be clear, this isn’t a dismissal, but more of a declaration that the clock is now officially ticking down on the Winston era. It will soon expire just like the mulligans he has used up over the years.
Jameis Winston is the only one who can pull himself out of this mess, but unfortunately it was he who put himself in this position in the first place.