*This column was originally published in The Inkwell and on its website.
This year in sports, it seems like we are witnessing the sequel to “Youth In Revolt” with all the young talent becoming the face of their respective sport.
Mike Trout, 22, has become the best player in baseball, with Yasiel Puig, 22, being the most entertaining player in what many consider to be a boring game as he carried the Los Angeles Dodgers to the National League Championship Series. The World Series will have Michael Wacha, a 21-year-old rookie, who has been the best player this postseason, sitting atop the St. Louis Cardinals rotation along with 23-year-old Trevor Rosenthal closing out games.
Basketball still has LeBron James as the king of the court at 28, but look for Kyrie Irving, 21, Anthony Davis, 20, and Damian Lillard, 23, to make leaps toward stardom this year.
In football, Andrew Luck, a second-year quarterback at 24, just outplayed Peyton Manning in the Indianapolis reunion for Manning and led the Colts to a 39-33 victory, giving the Denver Broncos their first loss of the season.
Last year, college football gave us Johnny Manziel, properly nicknamed Johnny Football, who lived the college kid’s dream as he partied and dominated football enough to win the Heisman trophy as a redshirt freshman, becoming the first to do so.
This season, college football has given us another redshirt freshman who is becoming the face of football, Jameis Winston or as others call him, Famous Jameis. Winston prefers to go by what most of his teammates call him, Jaboo, but from his performance and charisma, he better get used to his new nickname.
He plays both football and baseball at Florida State, has already been drafted in baseball — 15th-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2012 — is a Heisman trophy candidate and does a mean Bill Cosby impression.
On the baseball diamond, Winston throws 96 miles-per-hour off the mound, plays the outfield and is a switch hitter. He hit .235 at the plate and went 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA with opponents only hitting .176 against him.
While he contributed as a freshman on the baseball team, he has earned his nickname on the football field for the Seminoles. Through the first six games of the season, Winston has thrown for 1,885 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three incompletions while his precision passing has been a 71.3 percent completion percentage. He has also run for three touchdowns.
The first five games were impressive, but on Saturday, Oct. 19, Winston became Famous Jameis. Florida State was ranked as the No. 5 team in the nation at the time and they headed to face the No. 3-ranked Clemson Tigers in Death Valley. He and the ‘Noles smashed the Tigers 51-14, scoring the most points ever by an opponent at Memorial Stadium. Winston threw for 444 yards, threw three touchdowns and ran one, with his only flaw being an interception due to the receiver running the wrong route. The win propelled Florida State to the No. 2 spot in the first BCS rankings.
His presence before the game and after was almost as impressive as his performance during it. Before perhaps the biggest game in ACC history, Winston told his teammates in a Cosby-esque voice, “We ain’t leavin’ without a victory, we ain’t leavin’ without a victory. So y’all, hey, my brothas, put a smile on your face, because at Florida State, if we gonna do it, we gonna do it big.” After the game he praised his coach, his offensive line, his running backs, his receivers and his defense, without ever using the word “I,” but only the word “my.” This is his team and college football is becoming his game while he smiles too.
Johnny Football took over college football last year, while Winston said, “If I ever get Manziel disease, I want all of you to smack me in the head with your microphones,” to reporters at FSU’s media day. He also told an old white reporter, “I could make you feel at home in black church,” when asked about making people comfortable, and then did a mean MC Hammer dance impression.
Famous Jameis is taking over college football, and maybe baseball soon too, with laughs, smiles and head shaking from his talent. He’s a kid at heart, playing like a grown man as a 19-year-old. Whatever name or nickname you hear with Winston, believe the hype, as he continues to exceed it.