Interviews

Published on May 12th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford

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FSU Legend, Charlie Ward Explains Why Joining The Saints Was The Best Move For Jameis Winston!

Charlie Ward has been mentoring fellow FSU alum and new member of the New Orleans Saints, Jameis Winston.

In 1993, Florida State University quarterback, Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player. That same year he also captured a National Championship. Fast forward 20-years and Jameis Winston recreated, Ward’s success. At the same university, he captured a Heisman Trophy and National Title. Although on the surface it doesn’t appear the two have much more in common that their success on the football field at FSU, Ward saw fit to reach out to Winston during a turbulent time in the young QB’s career and offer guidance. Guidance that he was in dire need of. Ward sees the maturity in Winston both on and off the field. Winston, who spent his last 5-years in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers recently signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

During my recent conversation with the Florida State legend, Ward explains why the move to the Saints was a good one in what could be a “gap,” year (learning year) for Winston. He also goes into detail of how Winston’s positives outweigh his negatives on the field.

I love your “Chalk Talk’s” that you have been doing on Instagram. I’m sure that has been a good source of therapy during these times.

Charlie Ward: That’s part of it. It is something that I was doing more in a studio. Now that we had had this time home, it’s been good to do IG Live with friends, and also getting opportunities to interview other FSU alumni on topics that we normally talk about or have talked about over the years. There are a lot of things out there and it’s great that we have time now. Everyone pretty much has time. That’s kind of been the theme of all of this. Everyone has a little more time. They are not ripping and running or having to work as much. It’s been good. Just catching up with friends and doing a lot of IG Live’s and getting an opportunity to share a message.

I love the episode with Jameis Winston. He is a New Orleans Saint now and part of the “Who Dat Nation.” Do you remember your first impression of him when you met him?

Charlie Ward: I knew that he was sharp. I really started reaching out to him when he was going through the difficult time. Being a Florida State alum and quarterback and brother, I wanted to reach out to him just to encourage him and befriend him in a sense because I was new. But the thing that I admire about him the most is, he has great respect for those that are older than him and his teammates. And just like all of us, we go through moments where we are immature and we’re trying to live up to what someone else may be saying or making us out to be. Along with trying to hold a status or whatever the case may be. That’s where he was. The first time I met him, he was very respectful, and he listened. Those are two great characteristics to have if you’re trying to be successful long term.

He stated that you continuously encouraged him to marry his long-time girlfriend and he finally did that. We understand from a moral standpoint the importance of that, but why did you feel that it was necessary for Jameis to make that move?

Charlie Ward: I’m that way with everyone, especially if you have been with someone for quite some time. And a lot of times, Bre’ went through the fire with him. She was there the whole time pretty much when he was going through his difficult times and encouraging him and those types of things. That’s what you want in a wife. Someone who is going to stick with you through thick and thin. And of course, they have their issues just like we all do as couples and that’s what it is. I want all my friends who have young ladies that they have been dated for quite some time and they just feel like it’s okay or they’re living together, and they think that’s okay. But the thing I have grown to realize is, until people have deep convictions about it, sometimes the more you keep talking about it and encouraging them, they’ll either see it as a nag like your parents. When they are nagging you about something that you don’t want to do or as they continue to grow in their relationship with the Lord or have a conviction about it, they’ll feel like it’s time to do it. But you know, me being a Christian and of course knowing none of us are perfect, we all need encouragement to do the right thing according to what God has ordained us to do. I was grateful that he did that. It was in God’s timing for him and Bre’ to do.

He won a Heisman Trophy, he won a National Championship, and he was the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who weren’t very good and that lacked leadership to a degree. Do you think it was a matter of too much too fast or did he eventually have to go through a maturation process and that is where we are at now?

Charlie Ward:  We all have our different journey’s that we have to go through and for him, going to Tampa where they didn’t have very much success or stability and leadership. You see a lot of organizations, college, pros and even high school… if there is instability in the leadership position, you know that team is going to struggle. I don’t care what level they are playing at. You definitely have to have some stability. If the stability is at the head coaching spot, then the team has the opportunity to survive and make it through ala Alabama. They have had a ton of coaching turnover, but the mainstay has been Coach Nick Saban and his philosophy that will come through regardless of who comes through that organization.

So, I think for Jameis, he learned a lot, and this is part of God’s plan as far as his life, he learned a lot on the fly. Getting the opportunity to play I think his rookie year, early on getting his feet wet. Now, five years later he’s in a different spot. But you can’t take away the experience that he has. He made the best of it. Last year he led the lead I think in yards as well as turnovers, but he also had quite a few touchdowns both through the air and with his legs. There are a lot of positives, more positives than negatives. A lot of people want to make the turnovers way more than the touchdowns or the yards, but they are all the same. They can help win games, they can help lose games and when it’s all said and done, it’s pretty much the same when it comes to the weight. The thing that you can’t take away is the experience that he’s been able to gain over the past 5-years. He’s matured. He’ll tell you that and you can also hear it in his voice when he talks. He’s matured a lot and that’s something that you can’t take for granted. And the experience that he’s gained over these 5-years will definitely be able to help him as he moves forward with his deal in New Orleans. To be able to take a step back and gather himself for at least one year. You never know if he would get the opportunity to play or not, but I think his perspective and mindset is one that you want to have. And it’s just his humility. I don’t know if he talked about that, but just his humility to humble himself and say, “I want to learn. This year may be a gap year in a sense where I can learn and whatever I can learn I can definitely move forward.” Lord willing, he has more time. He will play the game as long as his health is good.

I love that we signed him down here. I think he will be an asset in some way, shape or form. Let me ask you, as someone who played the quarterback position at a high level, when you see his interceptions, obviously, there are tipped balls and dropped passes that turn into picks, so they all aren’t his fault. The ones that are, do you think it’s scheme, mechanics or his vision which he has had corrective surgery on? 

Charlie Ward: If you go back and look at all of them and I haven’t done this, I will say maybe 5% are deflections. Where the ball gets tipped up in the air. Maybe you tried to stick it into a tight window or there is an overthrow. And those things do happen. Sometimes it’s just a misread and the defense wins and sometimes it’s just a missed throw. Whether you’re trying to throw the ball over someone, and the ball comes up short, and those things do happen. And for him they happened a lot, but that’s part of the growth process.

I went through that myself as a quarterback my first year. I had 10-interceptions in 3-games. So, going into my fourth game, which I think was against Georgia Tech, I had 13 interceptions and 10 touchdowns. I think I may have run 3 or 4 touchdowns. But it was just a matter of me trying to figure out… it was my first year really playing and I was trying to figure out, not so much the defense, but the throws. When to throw the ball away, when to try and fit it in tight windows and not to throw the ball to the other team. It’s just like anything, once you get into a groove, whether it’s throwing touchdowns or throwing interceptions, you seem to find a way to continue that groove because it’s a mentality. A guy who finds a groove of throwing touchdowns all the time, seems like every decision he makes, or majority of the decisions are just great. And then you find a guy who may have a lot of interceptions on his record, he may become complacent and start checking the ball down. Well, unfortunately that wasn’t Jameis (laughing). He was who he is. And he continues to push the ball down the field. He made a lot of plays with his legs. That doesn’t come up in a lot of conversations, but he did a lot of positive as well. I just think once he gets his opportunity again, all these experiences that he’s been able to gain over the last 5-years in Tampa will definitely help him.

Going to New Orleans, I think is the shot in the arm for him. Because of their history, with where they are as far as winning, Sean Payton, Drew Brees and all the other coaches that they have there. That’s their culture and what they expect. I think Tampa has high hopes this year with the addition of Tom Brady. They are trying to put together a solid defense as well. When you look back at their record last year, I think they were 7-9 or something like that, and they were quite a few games where they were close games; I think maybe 7-points or less. When you start looking at teams that are mediocre, that’s normally where it comes in, turnovers and lack of will of a team to pull out close wins. That can be turned around in a heartbeat, when a team believes that they can win, and they start pulling out close games.

As his mentor, did Jameis confide in your when making his free agent decisions and ultimately signing with the New Orleans Saints?

Charlie Ward: I wasn’t in the mix. He has his own close people. He did ask me about it, and I did give my opinion on what I thought was maybe good fits, but I think he made his own decision. I explained why I thought New Orleans was a good fit. In my own personal opinion, I thought if he didn’t want to play and wanted to take a gap year in a sense, New Orleans was probably the best place because of the situation they have going on with Drew Brees and Taysom Hill. He is a utility type player/backup. Not saying Drew is going to retire, but more than likely… he’s kind of put his foot out of the door by having a job lined up. I thought that would have been the best situation that Jameis could have possibly had. I didn’t share that with him prior.

It’s always an honor and a pleasure to speak with you. Continue to do great things and influence the younger generation and anything I can do, please let me know. Is there anything else you wanted to add?

Charlie Ward: Thank you for having me on. If you’d like to check me out, I’m on IG Live mostly every Tuesday and Thursday. I’m @charliewardofficial, so you can check my Instagram page to see what I may have coming up. I have a book out called, “The Athlete!” You can go to www.charlieward.org to order and I’ll sign it and get it sent to you.



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