Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston isn't ruling out a return to the diamond – in fact, he's embracing it.
Winston, who will start for Florida State on Monday night in the BCS National Championship Game against the Auburn Tigers, wants to be both a quarterback in the NFL and an MLB player.
"You can do anything you put your mind to," Winston said today at a BCS Championship Game media session. "A lot of people are going to say, no way, he's a quarterback, Bo Jackson was a running back. But if I put my mind to it — and the one thing I always seem to do is gain the trust of my teammates — if I can convince those guys I can be your quarterback and still go play baseball for the Atlanta Braves or New York Yankees …"
It's not unheard of for players to dabble in both sports – but aside from guys like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, and Brian Jordan, players rarely turn pro in both sports. Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija starred as a wide receiver at Notre Dame, but gave up football after the Cubs gave him a five-year, $10 million contract. Former Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker was given a $1.4 million bonus by the Rockies in 2010 to give up football, and is a top five prospect in their organization heading into the 2014 season. Dennis Dixon, Russell Wilson, and Quincy Carter all dabbled in minor league baseball before deciding that heading to the NFL would be a better use of their talents, while Brandon Weeden, Chris Weinke, Josh Booty, and Drew Henson played several years of minor league baseball before heading back to football full-time.
Winston won't be eligible for the MLB Draft until 2015 after being drafted out of high school in the 15th round of the 2012 Draft by the Rangers. The Rangers weren't able to sign Winston, and he played baseball for FSU last year. Texas was aggressive in attempting to sign Winston, and they were surprised when they couldn't, according to assistant GM A.J. Preller. They wouldn't have made Winston give up football, and would have had instructors work with him at Florida State during the football season. During the Seminoles' Spring Break, the Rangers would have brought Winston to Spring Training in Arizona. During the summer, he'd join a rookie league team before the football season began, like Dixon and Wilson have done in recent years.
But Winston still hasn't gone all-in on football despite his success this year – before December's ACC Championship Game against Duke, he reached out to Rangers cross-checker Clarence Johns II, inquiring about drills performed by Rangers hitters in the offseason. Johns commented about Winston's desire to the Dallas Morning News.
“If two professional organizations were committed to giving him the opportunity, there is no doubt in my mind that Jameis could do it. It’s not just raw ability. It takes a passion for both sports, and Jameis has that.
“The birds are chirping to him that he has an NFL career ahead of him and maybe he should take a step back, but he’s not doing that. He’s got that passion for baseball.”
There is going to be a tremendous amount of attention on the Florida State baseball team this year, and most of it will be focused on a player that hit just .235 in 41 games and had a 3.00 ERA in 27 innings as a reliever. The idea of Winston as a two-sport athlete is extremely appealing, but the likelihood of him continuing on as a professional in both sports is slim.