NEW YORK — Jameis Winston left voters no choice but to give him the Heisman Trophy.
The Florida State quarterback became the second straight freshman to win the Heisman on Saturday night, earning college football’s most prestigious individual award with a performance so spectacular and dominant that even a criminal investigation couldn’t derail his candidacy.
“I cannot explain the feeling that I have inside right now,” Winston said. “I’m so overwhelmed. It’s awesome.”
He smiled and laughed through most of his acceptance speech, but got a little choked up when he talked about his parents.
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“When you see your mom and your dad and they’ve been struggling through this whole process, it was nice to see a smile on their faces,” he said.
Winston received 668 first-place votes and 2,205 points. He finished 1,501 points ahead of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron for the seventh-largest margin of victory in Heisman history, despite being left off 115 of the 900 ballots that were returned.
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was third, followed by Boston College’s Andre Williams, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Auburn’s Tre Mason.
Winston also became the youngest winner at 23 days short of 20.
“People trusted me and saw us play,” he said.
Winston is the nation’s top-rated passer and has led the top-ranked Seminoles to a spot in the BCS championship game against No. 2 Auburn on Jan. 6, his birthday.
Winston and Florida State were cruising toward an undefeated season when news broke of an unresolved sexual assault complaint against him made to the Tallahassee Police Department last December.
The dormant case was handed over to the state attorney’s office for a full investigation. A female student at Florida State accused Winston of rape. Winston’s attorney said the sex was consensual. No charges were filed and the case was closed four days before Heisman ballots were due.
During three weeks of uncertainty, Winston continued to play sensationally, especially in Florida State’s big games against Clemson and Miami.
The Heisman Trust mission statement says: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
There was no doubting his on-the-field credentials. Winston is on pace (190.1) to break Russell Wilson’s record for best passer efficiency rating in a season and set FBS freshman records for yards passing (3,820) and touchdown passes (38). Florida State’s average margin of victory is 42 points, and Winston has sat out most fourth quarters.