Winston is expected to compete for the job with Taysom Hill this summer, after Brees announced his retirement and Winston signed a one-year contract with the Saints last week.
The opportunity to spend an entire season with Drew Brees is a dream for me, said Winston, who began gasping in a video conference with the New Orleans media after being asked about an intimate conversation he had with Brees on the sideline during the final minutes of January’s playoff loss against New Orleans.
The fact that he put his hand around me – or just gave me a few words of encouragement – after seeing his resilience, his passion, the way he approached each day, even to be ancient history, it touched me, Winston said. Because he doesn’t even know what he means to me and my family. It really is.
For example, I like football. I’ve been doing that all my life. And someone that I look up to, that I can really relate to was my teammate, and I was fortunate enough to serve him like, man, I’m speechless. It makes me really nervous. Because I really like Drew Brees, like I thought he didn’t understand.
You don’t understand the impact he and many other quarterbacks had on me growing up in Bessemer, Alabama. And many people don’t understand this human aspect of an athlete. But know that I really like Drew Brees. I am, really. And I was just happy to see what he did and how hard he persevered last year.
Winston, who turned 27 in January, originally signed a one-year contract with the Saints last summer in an effort to revive his career and get a Harvard education at the quarterback school under Brees, coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. Although Winston didn’t play much last season, he scored a 56-yard touchdown on a trick play in the Saints playoff loss against his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And he’s gained enough experience to return to the Saints as a free agent this year on a one-year contract that guarantees $5.5 million and could be worth up to $12 million depending on playing time and performance.
Winston recognized that replacing someone like Bree was a big responsibility. But I accept it.
You just learn from his methods and become a better version of yourself. That’s what Drew Brees would tell me, Winston said. You can be Jameis Winston, you don’t have to be Drew Brees.
And I’d like to take the torch. I want to be able to convey the enthusiasm, joy and resilience he brought to this city.
When asked how he sees Payton’s offense with him as the quarterback, Winston said: I’m glad to hear the same from you.
One thing I know about Coach Payton, he loves a challenge and a fresh start, Winston said. And I think he sees that opportunity, as I see it, because he got a young quarterback out of San Diego, right? When he picked Drew up from the Chargers [in 2006], they exploded together.
For example, I like football. I’ve been doing that all my life. And someone that I look up to, that I can really relate to was my teammate, and I was fortunate enough to serve him like, man, I’m speechless. It makes me really nervous. Because I really like Drew Brees, because I don’t think he understands at all.
So I know his arsenal is full of a lot of things. When you see what he was able to do with Taysom last year, how he completely changed our offense and we had a lot of success. It was just great to see a guy work like that, and that’s why I say it was that game [of the Saints coaches and quarterbacks]. That whole room created what could have been a masterpiece, and that’s what I really liked about Sean, Pete, Taysom, and all the guys that were in that room.
Winston’s career has been up and down the field since he won the Heisman Trophy at Florida State and was selected in the first round of the 2015 Buccaneers draft. He went 28-42 as a starter and led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019. He became the first player in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same 2019 season.
The Buccaneers selected Tom Brady when Winston became a free agent and eventually won the Super Bowl.
Over the past year, Winston has made several changes, including LASIK surgery to correct his vision and improve his diet and fitness. And he said LASIK was a good idea because I like to see things clearly.
But he said those things were nothing compared to the importance of being in a room with all the Saints coaches and quarterbacks he mentioned by name.
When asked what he learned last year that could help him improve his turnovers, Winston said one of the big things I learned from Drew was, you know, Jameis, we make decisions based on what the right decision is. We don’t care about the outcome, do we? Because in time, the right decision will get us where we want to be.
And I bought it, Winston said.
Winston also noted that one of the biggest things he has learned about himself in the past year is how to be a father and husband to my wife and son … and how we will persevere, no matter what.
Because my wife and I were in New Orleans and she was pregnant at the time [and] with a two-year-old baby during that pandemic, Winston said. So it was just us, for the first time in our lives, and we’re going through this with a humble role in our lives. She’s my high school sweetheart, so she’s been through some ups and downs with me. So I guess I learned how to be a father, how to overcome those difficult moments, and how to seize this great opportunity that was offered to me….
And that’s why I’m in a good mood right now. My coach always said that being a good quarterback doesn’t make you a better quarterback, but being a better person makes you a great quarterback.
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