NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- The Heisman Trophy winner got the boot.
In one of the final practices leading up to the Vizio BCS National Championship, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher kicked quarterback Jameis Winston out of practice during a two-minute drill.
Really? Tossed the Heisman winner?
“Yes, I did,” he said. “I sent him to the locker room.”
Fisher said he didn’t like Winston’s mindset in that particular situation and wanted to teach Winston that the moment wasn’t about him winning the game alone. A two-minute drill is about using the players around him and being wary of the clock.
“[The clock is] No. 1, the opponent is No. 2, and the mindset you have to have going in, which he had all year,” Fisher said, “I just saw it drifting.”
What a timely lesson to be learned.
In the final two minutes of a 34-31 win over Auburn on Monday night, Winston drove the Noles 80 yards in seven plays, using the elite talent he had around him and capping the game-winning drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds to spare.
The national champs are still young. They’re still learning -- and that includes the best player in the country, who celebrated his 20th birthday with a national title. Winston is not going anywhere next season.
Don’t expect the program to either.
“I think it’s going to look very similar to who you’re seeing right now,” Fisher said. “I think there may be one or two [players] I’ve got to have serious conversations with, but … this is an extremely young football team.”
Despite a roster oozing with NFL talent and the draft looming this spring, Fisher didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned about the possibility of losing many players early. He said there are only three seniors on offense and “maybe one” player who might leave early. He said “maybe three guys max” on defense might leave.
“Those guys are having a good time here, and we have some great young players coming in behind those guys,” he said. “So I think this team will look very, very similar to the one you just saw.”
Florida State’s biggest challenge will not be the 2014 NFL draft. It will be avoiding complacency -- a hurdle Fisher's mentor has mastered at Alabama.
In the few hours following Fisher’s first national title as a head coach, he shared some private conversations with good friend and Alabama coach Nick Saban. Saban’s wife, Terry, called Fisher on Tuesday morning, and Saban and Fisher joked about being “a couple of old hillbillies from those coal mines that came on and became football coaches.”
Much like Winston, Fisher said he learned a few lessons along the way too. He remembered how “back in the '80s,” when he was a graduate assistant, he would sit around at the Bowden Academy and soak up every word the coaches had to say while sitting around the pool at night. He talked about how Bobby Bowden influenced him and helped him by stepping away from the program for a bit and giving him the freedom to develop the program his own way. Fisher also talked about the lessons he learned from Saban when he left LSU in 2004.
“You’ve got to go back to ground zero, and you can’t worry about expectations,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to play it. … But I think that’s the thing: Once expectations get so high, is to not let complacency set in.
“You can’t lose that edge,” he added. “If you ever lose that edge, that chip on your shoulder, you’re just another team. I don’t care how talented you are. This team has to go back, get its own identity, get its own leadership and develop that, and that’s going to be our challenge now. It’s how hungry can you stay to be able to do it over and over again.”
It’s a lesson Fisher is more than willing to pass on.