The most-discussed college football player on Saturday will be one who doesn't take a snap, and if that doesn't tell us plenty about today's game there's not much that will.
This is the world in which Jameis Winston lives at Florida State, even if he has only slowly become aware of it. The most concerning thing about everything, prior to the Seminoles' game against Clemson at least, is not that the quarterback was involved in an off-the-field issue, but that when one hears what he did, more people shrug their shoulders than say, 'That's not like him.'
Winston is not a kid who can do "college stuff." He's not normal -- he's anything but. Being a starting quarterback should be enough to dislodge this narrative, and if not, being the starter under center for the defending national champions should. Everything he does or says will wind up on the internet for all to see and hear, yet it has become increasingly clear that it does not matter to the signal-caller.
Immaturity should never be an issue, and yet it is with Winston time after time. For many, especially FSU fans, it's the primary excuse, too. It's time to stop this line of thinking and be concerned about who the Heisman winner is becoming.
Winston said something stupid and should know that some things, even popular memes for 20-somethings, need to go unsaid. Even more concerning is that after all Florida State has done to protect him, he reportedly wasn't honest about everything with school officials. If that's not a sign of him failing to make progress, I'm not sure what is.
By all accounts, he's a team leader and somebody Seminoles want to play with. He's not just the guy, he's their guy inside that locker room. When Friday night's statement was released, however, he threw most of that goodwill away. Even 18-year-old freshmen have to be disappointed about off-the-field issues turning into major on-field ones.
As optimistic a person as Jimbo Fisher is, he has to be concerned about where things are headed with his quarterback. By all accounts the coach was not part of the decision to remove Winston for the full game, but he's made it clear him missing playing time needs to serve as a wake-up call. If it doesn't, Fisher has bigger issues than the toughest ACC game of the year.
Regardless what Fisher has or hasn't done, the university's coddling of Winston has mostly hampered his development. If last season's kid-gloves approach on the way to the title game wasn't bad enough, the school's sports information director admonishing reporters for asking non-Clemson-game-related questions at Winston's press conference this week was.
At some point Winston has to face the music.
Even with his suspension, he hasn't. It will go a long ways when he does.
Winston is no Johnny Manziel. His off-the-field headlines don't involve partying, instead prosecutors. If NFL scouts continue to take issue with him, he might not even wind up as a first-round pick. In today's world, being a talented football player is not enough for fans, coaches or owners.
I first met Winston when he was a junior in high school. His talent was obvious, as was his ability -- and desire -- to be the focus of every room he was in. While I can't say I know him as well as some, I'm fairly confident I can say he's somebody that knows right from wrong and is much smarter than he's given credit for.
That's what makes the headlines he's generating so frustrating for those around him. That little thing in one's conscious that says, "I shouldn't do this," isn't there for Winston. Such a thing is even more concerning if you're a quarterback-needy NFL team or the administration at Florida State.
After tonight, if Winston has any hope of being successful -- not just in football but life -- he needs to follow this cardinal Jameis Rule: Never be the story, just be the highlight.
Let your play do the talking, not off-the-field actions. Be a 30-second late-night highlight, not fodder for late-night talk shows. Win. Have fun, but be serious. It's not a hard code to live by, yet it's proven easy for Winston to stray from it.
Here's to hoping tonight's suspension makes the quarterback realize what he needs to do. If not, there's a long road ahead, and Winston won't like where that path takes him.