NEW YORK — Jameis Winston left voters no choice but to give him the Heisman Trophy.
The Florida State quarterback became the second freshman to win the Heisman last night, earning college football’s most prestigious individual award with a performance so sensational and dominant that even a criminal investigation couldn’t derail his candidacy.
“I cannot explain the feeling that I have inside right now,” Winston said. “I’m so overwhelmed. It’s awesome.”
When his name was announced, Winston popped up from his seat and made his way to his mom and dad for hugs and kisses. He smiled and laughed through most of his acceptance speech, but he got a little choked up when he talked about his parents.
“When you see your mom and your dad, and they’ve been struggling through this whole process, it was nice to see a smile on their faces,” he said.
Winston received 668 first-place votes and 2,205 points. He finished 1,501 points ahead of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron for the seventh-largest margin of victory in Heisman history, despite being left off 115 of the 900 ballots that were returned.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman last year, and he was trying to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as a two-time winner. But he finished fifth this year as Winston became the youngest winner at 23 days short of 20.
The 19-year-old also was investigated last month for a year-old sexual assault complaint, but no charges were filed and the case was closed four days before Heisman votes were due.
“People trusted me and saw us play,” Winston said.
Winston is the nation’s top-rated passer and has led the top-ranked Seminoles to a spot in the BCS title game against No. 2 Auburn on Jan. 6, his birthday. The former five-star recruit from Bessemer, Ala., made college football look easy from his very first game. On Labor Day night, on national television, Winston completed 25 of 27 passes (92.6 percent) for 356 yards and four touchdowns at Pittsburgh.
It was a brilliant debut that lived up to the offseason hype after Winston wowed Florida State fans in the Seminoles’ spring football game and on the baseball diamond as a hard-throwing reliever and clutch-hitting outfielder. He had earned the nickname “Famous Jameis” before he ever played a college football game.
Winston and Florida State were cruising toward an undefeated season when news broke of an unresolved sexual assault complaint against him made to the Tallahassee Police Department last December, in which a female student at Florida State accused Winston of rape. The case was handed over to the state attorney’s office for investigation.
Winston, however, continued to play sensationally, while other contenders stumbled or failed to distinguish themselves.