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Nancy Smith

Jameis Winston, Go with God, Son ... You're a Tampa Bay Buc Now

April 29, 2015 - 6:00pm

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers know all about Jameis Winston's bad behavior at Florida State, but they're unafraid and call him easily the best quarterback prospect in the 2015 NFL draft. On Thursday they made Winston a Buc and the No.1 pick in the country.

"It's a character issue, all right. He's just the character we need in Tampa," Bucs fan Andy Rollins told Sunshine State News in a phone interview Thursday night."And, hey, we keep him in Florida, where he's never lost a game. ... Exciting night."

Quarterbacks were selected with the top two picks in the draft for only the sixth time. After Winston went to Tampa, the Tennessee Titans took 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota No. 2.

Like the Bucs, the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the third pick, shopped locally, taking defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. from the University of Florida.

Winston, 21, joins a Buccaneers team with a 2-14 record last season, tied for worst in the NFL and ranked 25th out of 32 teams in yards passing. Tampa Bay is 30-66 the past six years, and hasn't won a playoff game since its run to a Super Bowl title after the 2002 season.

"Jameis played in a pro-style offense and the spotlight has been on him so much more than most other prospects, certainly at his age," CBS Sports.com draft analyst Rob Rang told reporters in a conference call. "So I think it's going to be a fairly easy transition to the NFL for him. He's such an extraordinary talent whose accuracy in the pocket ties in very well with the pass catchers Tampa Bay already has."

Winston skipped the draft proceedings in Chicago to watch on television back home in Bessemer, Ala., where he happily put on the red Tampa Bay cap of his new team.

"So proud to be @TBBuccaneers," tweeted Winston, who preferred to celebrate at home surrounded by friends and family, including his grandmother, Myrtle Winston.

Some wondered about Winston's make-up given a sexual assault allegation made against him, a shoplifting citation, and a game suspension for getting up on a table on campus and screaming a sexually charged phrase made popular on the Internet. There's also an active civil suit against him involving the sexual assault case. But Tampa Bay's background checks convinced them he could be counted on.

Bucs General Manager Jason Licht told the Tampa Tribune that the team did its due diligence, speaking to some 75 people about Winston. He said he "couldn't feel more confident about the process we have gone through."

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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