For the first time in the history of the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, two African-Americans posed together Monday when the 2013 recipient joined the 2013 O’Brien Legends Award winner for a photo at the Fort Worth Club.
Although the moment held symbolic significance for both Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and former NFL standout Doug Williams, the first black player to win a Super Bowl as a team’s starting quarterback, the milestone went largely unnoticed by dinner guests.
That is just the way that Williams, a former Grambling standout who led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 Super Bowl victory over Denver to cap the 1987 NFL season, would have wanted it after a 2013 season when black quarterbacks led their teams to a Super Bowl title (Seattle’s Russell Wilson) and a BCS national championship (Winston).
“I think we’re where we’re supposed to be,” Williams said, reflecting on how much things have changed since his playing days. “Let the talent take care of the position, not the color.”
Winston, a redshirt freshman, flashed plenty of talent while leading the Seminoles to a 14-0 record capped by a 34-31 victory over Auburn in January’s national championship game. In his first season as a college starter, Winston (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) threw for 4,057 yards, with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Winston, 20, acknowledged Williams has been a source of inspiration for him in his football pursuits.
“I know about Mr. Williams, definitely. He’s a quarterback I’ve always looked up to,” said Winston, who was born six years after Williams’ historic Super Bowl triumph. “Being the first African-American to do anything is a good honor. And then him coming from an HBCU school [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], that means even more. Because he had his many doubters in his day, people saying he could not be an NFL quarterback coming from Grambling.
“Anybody that I can get latched on to and that can give me some type of secret or help or motivation to just feed off of, I look up to. He definitely inspires me.”
The two crossed paths Monday, with Williams — also a former Grambling coach — suggesting that Winston and former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel benefited from forward-thinking coaches the past two seasons while becoming the first redshirt freshmen to claim an O’Brien Award during their Heisman Trophy-winning seasons. Manziel claimed both honors in 2012. Winston did the double in 2013.
“In a lot of places, Manziel and this guy wouldn’t have got a chance because the coaches would have been saying, ‘He’s just a freshman,’ ” Williams said. “But this shows that, when you put some people around a guy with that kind of leadership and ability, anything can happen.”
Winston, who doubles as a pitcher/outfielder on the Seminoles’ baseball team, already is thinking of defending last year’s national title. On his way to the O’Brien dinner, he stopped by AT&T Stadium in Arlington, site of the team’s Aug. 30 opener against Oklahoma State as well as this season’s national title game (Jan. 12, 2015). Winston toured the facility with Cotton Bowl officials.
Although his DFW geography was a bit off, Winston said his first trip to the venue proved motivational.
“We actually made up a little slogan, ‘From Dallas to Dallas,’ ” Winston said. “We want to start off and win our first game and, hopefully, we’ll end up in the last game.”
In the interim, Winston — the baseball team’s closer who recorded a six-out save Saturday — plans to keep alive his dream of being a two-sport professional athlete like Bo Jackson (outfielder, NFL running back) and former FSU standout Deion Sanders (outfielder, NFL cornerback).
“My confidence is to the max. I’m a person that believes you can do anything you put your mind to,” Winston said. “I know that, ultimately, I might have to make a decision. But that is my dream, to play both sports ... I know I want to be an NFL quarterback. I know I laid down that foundation.”
Just like one of Winston’s heroes, Doug Williams, did a generation ago.