Jack Nicklaus on Jameis Winston: 'Innocent until proven guilty'

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Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, through his own doing, is a little short on allies these days.

But as allies go, the Golden Bear isn't a bad one to have in one's corner. Golf legend Jack Nicklaus countered criticism of Winston levied last week by legendary running backs Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker, throwing support to the Seminoles' Heisman Trophy winner.

"I just hate to see them hammering a 20-year-old kid," said Nicklaus, according to The Palm Beach Post. "Has he made mistakes? Maybe. But you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, I think. Not charged and convicted and sentenced."

Nicklaus' grandson, Seminoles tight end Nick O'Leary, is one of the nation's top NFL draft prospects at his position. On Saturday, Winston completed 23 of 31 passes for 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns in FSU's 31-27 win over Notre Dame. Given the level of competition, it was arguably third-year sophomore's most impressive performance of the season, and it came on the heels of some sharp remarks made last week by Jackson and Walker. Jackson said he was no longer interested in helping Winston repair his reputation after the quarterback waved off his advice. Walker said he didn't vote for Winston last year because of his questionable integrity, and couldn't do so this year, either.

Winston's latest controversy involves some 2,000 pieces of autographed memorabilia available online by James Spence Authentication, and whether Winston was paid for the signatures in violation of NCAA rules.

"I wonder how many autographs I have out there," Nicklaus said. "Every game I go to I sign probably 20 or 25 (people) and four or five each. Start adding that up. And he's a lot more available than I am. He's not the only kid with a couple thousand out there. A bunch of those kids have to have a couple thousand."

Winston has denied any wrongdoing, according to coach Jimbo Fisher, and FSU updated its ongoing investigation Friday by saying it had not uncovered evidence of any payment.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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