Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner who went 26-1 as a starter, has decided to enter this year's NFL draft.
Winston led Florida State to the national championship last season and lost for the first time in last week's Rose Bowl to Oregon. He will be one of the top prospects in the 2015 draft, although his off-the-field issues could raise sufficient doubts that he may not be taken with the first or second overall pick, as some experts have projected.
"After weighing this decision with my family and friends, I have decided to declare for the 2015 NFL draft and forgo my remaining eligibility at Florida State," Winston said in a statement released through The Legacy Agency, which will represent him.
"I reached this very difficult decision after careful consideration and long thought, realizing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family at Florida State. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to wear the garnet and gold and have greatly enjoyed my time as a Seminole, both as an athlete and a student in the classroom."
Winston had a tumultuous time at Florida State, where he was accused of raping a fellow student in December 2012. He was never charged, and a Florida State internal student code of conduct hearing determined that there was not enough evidence to find Winston guilty.
The accuser's lawyers filed a civil lawsuit against Florida State on Wednesday, alleging that the school did not protect her Title IX rights. Winston served a one-game suspension in 2014 for yelling a vulgar phrase in an on-campus dining hall, and he was cited for stealing crab legs from a Tallahassee supermarket last April.
NFL teams in recent years have become more leery of players with off-field issues, although it hasn't stopped them from investing high draft picks. Last year, another Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A & M, was a first-round pick for Cleveland despite several off-field incidents that included autograph signing against NCAA guidelines that led to his suspension for the first half of his first game in 2013.
Winston, also an accomplished baseball player, was one of college football's best players the last two seasons. Since the start of the 2013 season, he had 65 touchdown passes and 7,964 passing yards. In 2014, he finished with 3,907 yards, 25 TDs and 18 interceptions, while rushing for three TDs.
In Florida State's 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Winston threw for 348 yards, one TD and one interception. He also lost a fumble on an awkward scramble in which he fell backward and lost the ball. The fumble was returned by Oregon for a touchdown.