How Jameis Winston fared in biggest moments of his career

The 2015 NFL Draft is fast approaching, and quarterback Jameis Winston remains the favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There appears to be just one more hurdle -- Florida State's pro day Tuesday -- before general manager Jason Licht, head coach Lovie Smith and others in the Tampa Bay front office have all the information they need to make Winston the new face of the franchise.



But how did Winston reach a point where he could leapfrog the consensus most talented player in the draft, USC's Leonard Williams, and go No. 1? One of his key traits in college was the ability to deliver on the big stage. With that in mind, College Football 24/7 looked at how Winston fared in the biggest moments of his career.

First Florida State start

Still, few could have predicted how Winston would wow a national audience against Pitt in his first college start, and he more than lived up to his "Famous Jameis" nickname. Winston was nearly perfect in his debut and showed no signs of the stage being to big for him, completing 17 of 18 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns -- in the first half. He threw only two incompletions for the game, finishing with 356 passing yards and four touchdowns in a resounding victory that showed the then-No. 11 Seminoles would be a force to reckon with in ACC play.

If there was one performance that set the tone for Winston's eventual Heisman Trophy-winning year and said that FSU was back as a title contender, it was the opening act of an unexpected journey in 2013. It's hard to play flawless in any game at quarterback. That Winston did it in his debut catapulted his budding legend.

National championship game

Opponent: Auburn
Date: Jan. 6, 2014
Result: Win, 34-31
Throughout Florida State's remarkable run to the final BCS National Championship Game, there were two common themes for the Seminoles: Winston's big numbers and the team's penchant for blowing out every opponent in their way. Against Auburn, however, neither appeared to be the case.

Winston struggled for much of the game as FSU entered halftime down, 21-10, and he didn't exactly light the world on fire entering the third quarter, either. In many respects, it was the first time anybody had seen him perform at a less-than-stellar level, and that it came on the biggest stage made it all the more puzzling.

It didn't matter. Winston saved his best for last, throwing two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead FSU to the national title. He went 6-of-7 on the winning drive, taking the Seminoles the length of the field in just 66 seconds before connecting with Kelvin Benjamin for a score.

The best Winston could be at quarterback might not have been on full display at the Rose Bowl, but when things mattered most down the stretch, he flashed exactly the skills that scouts had become enamored with, thanks to some clutch decision-making and remarkable poise.



Showdown with unbeaten Irish

Opponent: Notre Dame
Date: Oct. 18, 2014
Result: Win, 31-27
In stark contrast to the 2013 season, 2014 proved to be a roller coaster for Florida State and Winston. Nothing encapsulated that more than the team's narrow victory over Notre Dame at home, in which the Seminoles displayed all of their flaws yet hung on for yet another win. On top of that, in the days leading up to the game, reports surfaced that Winston was being investigated for breaking NCAA rules regarding autographs. The game against the Irish very much could have caused the team and its quarterback to break. Instead, it was yet another example of Winston excelling when his team needed him to make a play.

Despite dealing with numerous offensive line issues and trailing by seven at halftime, Winston started the third quarter sharp, leading the Seminoles on scoring drives on three of their first four second-half possessions. The eventual game-winner was a thing of beauty: a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took up most of the clock in the final quarter. Winston spread the ball to multiple receivers to move the chains, converting twice on third down.

Winston's play was overshadowed a bit by the game's controversial ending, in which Notre Dame, with a chance to win, was flagged for offensive pass interference on 4th and goal, essentially ending the game. But it was Winston's heroics that led FSU to its 23rd straight win and kept it in the national title hunt.



CFB Playoff semifinal

Opponent: Oregon
Date: Jan. 1, 2015
Result: Loss, 59-20
The first-ever College Football Playoff featured a heck of a semifinal, pitting defending national champion Florida State against Pac-12 power Oregon, as well as the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, Winston, against the 2014 winner, Ducks QB Marcus Mariota.

The Winston vs. Mariota duel was a preview of two players viewed as potential No. 1 overall picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, yet that's not quite how history will remember things. While Winston did not play terribly -- he had 348 yards passing with one TD and one interception -- a spate of turnovers made it an outing he's unlikely to remember fondly. Most famously, Winston, while trying to elude a rush on fourth down, slipped and fumbled. The play resulted in an Oregon touchdown and seemed to signal the final nail in the coffin. FSU fell, 59-20, its first loss since 2012.

The loss was the only one of Winston's college career. He declared for the draft later that month. While Mariota didn't significantly outplay him, Winston was still part of the reason why the Seminoles lost. While the loss to Mariota was a sour way to end his college career, Winston cemented his status among most scouts and coaches as the more pro-ready quarterback.

NFL Scouting Combine

Date: February, 2015
It wasn't a game, but Winston thrived under the bright lights and cameras around Lucas Oil Stadium just the same, delivering a masterful performance in the most important job interview of his life.

We saw Winston the entertainer charm reporters in his news conference, appearing as charismatic as Cam Newton was a few years before. We saw Winston the competitor go against a recent trend and throw during quarterback drills. We saw Winston ease teams' concerns about his off-the-field issues while also displaying his football intelligence. Finally, we saw the confident QB rebuffing reports of shoulder issues and displaying a strong arm on the turf.

Just as impressive, Winston seemed to change the narrative about himself with a strong showing on and off the field. In a telling comment, he noted that he is not competing with Mariota but with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, proclaiming that he would be playing in the Super Bowl as a rookie. The comments weren't as brash as some construed them. Instead, it was just Jameis being Jameis.

While it might not have been in a game setting, Winston certainly fared well in one of the biggest moments of his career as he transitioned from (infamous) college star into the likely first player selected in the 2015 NFL Draft.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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