GREENSBORO, N.C. — If Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston needed a reminder about the spotlight that follows him, he only had to look at the mass of people surrounding a ballroom table Sunday afternoon, eagerly waiting to ask about his on-field exploits and off-field hiccups.
A record number of reporters requested credentials to the ACC’s annual football kickoff, in large part because Winston was the first returning Heisman Trophy winner to attend the two-day event.
The redshirt sophomore then greeted the circus-like atmosphere with the same broad smile and bravado that proved so effective last season, when he led the Seminoles to a 14-0 record and a national championship. He cracked jokes, let loose hearty laughs and even bragged about taking the national championship away from the SEC.
“I’m definitely enjoying this,” Winston said. “It gives me a chance to express my feelings and for people to see who I really am.”
There were any number of story lines in Greensboro on Sunday, but none came close to the hoopla Winston generated. He walked around the Grandover Resort like a rock star, with even players from other ACC teams tracking his every move.
Winston did not specifically address last year’s sexual assault investigation or his citation for shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee grocery store in May. However, he said the glare of the spotlight over the past 12 months forced him to mature.
“I have to be able to live up to that hype everywhere I go,” Winston said. “I have a certain standard that I have to hold myself up to, and if I go even an inch below that standard, it’s gonna be chaos. . . .
“I learned from my mistakes. I fixed it, and I moved on to preparing for this season.”
The Seminoles again are the favorites to win the ACC and perhaps put together another undefeated campaign in the inaugural season of college football’s four-team playoff.
Winston’s performance Sunday, meanwhile, left little doubt who Florida State’s star will be.
Virginia Tech enters the preseason unsettled at quarterback for the first time since 2008.
The uncertainty has left many fans anxious to see the door opened for Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer when training camp begins next month.
Count Hokies wide receiver Willie Byrn among those impressed with Brewer’s work during unsupervised offseason workouts.
“He doesn’t like to lose one rep in seven-on-seven, and you love to see that. He is mad if you don’t complete the ball,” Byrn said of Brewer, who enrolled at Virginia Tech after graduating from Texas Tech in June. “He definitely knows the playbook right now. . . . We don’t have to slow down at all for him.” . . .
In addition to rebounding from a 2-10 campaign, Virginia will have to compensate for the loss of tight end and leading receiver Jake McGee.
McGee elected to transfer to Florida after the conclusion of spring practice, and the sudden departure even caught teammates off-guard, they said Sunday.
“Me and Jake, we’re very tight, but he really didn’t let me in on it,” senior tailback Kevin Parks said. “I asked him, ‘Why, why, why?’ But he really didn’t let me in on his decision. It was kind of a heartbreaker for me, but I respect Jake, and I’m not going to sit there and bug him about it.”
ACC Commissioner John Swofford offered few details when asked about the league’s pending litigation with Maryland over the legality of the conference’s $52 million exit fee.
The two sides were supposed to meet with a court-approved mediator before July 10.
The Terrapins officially joined the Big Ten earlier this month as the ACC added Louisville.
“We wish Maryland well,” Swofford said. “They were a quality member of this league for 60 years, and our league feels that it has a responsibility to the Atlantic Coast Conference member institutions to live by our constitution and bylaws as they leave the league.”