The football part has come easy for Jameis Winston. The redshirt freshman quarterback for No. 1 Florida State left no doubt on the field during a 13-0 season about his status as the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy when it is presented Saturday night at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.
But repercussions from a year-old allegation of sexual assault against him have clouded his ascent to the pinnacle of college football, even though a Florida state attorney's investigation recently concluded that the evidence against Winston is not strong enough to proceed with a prosecution.
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On the eve of the Heisman ceremony, Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the complainant, held a news conference in which she called for a state investigation of the Tallahassee police department and the work of State Attorney Willie Meggs, who chose not to file charges against Winston. But a spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent an email to media outlets saying, "No further action on this matter is required."
Winston was among five of the six Heisman finalists -- including last year's winner, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel; Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and running backs Andre Williams of Boston College and Tre Mason of Auburn -- who met with the media in Manhattan Friday afternoon. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was in Baltimore to accept another award.
Winston described the past year as "stressful," knowing that he was facing serious allegations. Asked if he regretted the incident, which he described as consensual to investigators, Winston said, "I love my college experience. Obviously, with me being young, you've got to get better every year. So I was comfortable with the process, and I know I didn't do nothing wrong. So you've just got to keep moving forward and live every day."
A Florida State media relations representative then asked that questions be limited to football and the Heisman Trophy. When Winston then was asked if a code of conduct should be part of the Heisman criteria, the representative interjected, "Next question."
Later, Winston said he and his family placed their trust in attorney Timothy Jansen, who has represented him since he was identified as the suspect in January. "I always respect the process," Winston said. "I knew I had to focus on the future, but I also had to focus on my family with everything that was going on with the investigation.
"I knew I did nothing wrong. That's why I knew I could respect the process and I eventually would be vindicated."
Whether he was "vindicated" or merely avoided prosecution, Winston emphatically denied any wrongdoing.
"Everything I do and every way I carry myself is a point of character," he said. "My parents brought me up right. So everything I do, I'm going to be myself no matter what's going on, no matter what's happening."