TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Glendale, Arizona, this Sunday to take on the Cardinals, it won't be the first time Jameis Winston and Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians meet. Winston attended Arians' summer camps in Alabama as a youngster, and left quite the impression.
"'Jaboo' is legend in Birmingham," said Arians, whose son lived about 20 minutes outside of Winston's hometown of Bessemer. "We had a little football camp back then in Birmingham, and he threw one day. We had a bunch of local kids there and one of his high school coaches was a good friend of mine, so we’ve known him and watched him grow and we’re very, very proud of him."
Winston brushed off the 'legend' talk on Wednesday, but managed to flash a modest smile. "He’s probably just saying that," Winston said. He was just named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for four touchdowns against Atlanta. "I don’t believe that."
They met a few times, and Winston admitted that Arians left quite the impression on him, too. "One thing I just remember is him showing me those Super Bowl rings," said Winston. "I still haven’t gotten one yet, so I’m shooting for that."
Winston would lead Hueytown High School to a state championship his junior year. He became a five-star recruit by Rivals.com and was regarded as the top quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com, fielding offers from LSU, Stanford, Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Miami and Oklahoma before choosing Florida State. But he was dreaming even bigger than that, thanks to Arians.
"He really motivated me to go after a Super Bowl," Winston said. "He showed me that Pittsburgh one (from when Arians was offensive coordinator with the Steelers, coincidentally won in Tampa after the 2008 season)... it was gorgeous, so he really inspired me to go after a Super Bowl."
Arians continued to follow Winston's career through the years. His coaching career took him to Indianapolis, and he became the offensive coordinator and interim head coach for the Colts in 2012, where he worked with Andrew Luck during his record-breaking rookie season. He was named head coach of the Cardinals in 2013.
"He would be fun to coach, there’s no doubt about it," Arians said of Winston. "He’s a winner and a great leader and obviously a heck of a young quarterback."
Arians' own quarterback with the Cardinals, Carson Palmer, raved about Winston, too.
"I love his game," said Palmer, 14-year-veteran who, like Winston, also won a Heisman Trophy and was also selected first-overall in the NFL. "He throws with great anticipation, throws with great timing. Has really, really good touch on the ball -- probably underrated in how much touch he has because his arm is so strong."
Unlike Winston though, Palmer didn't start right away. He spent his rookie year watching veteran Jon Kitna, and didn't make his debut until Week 1 of his second year. The fact that Winston was thrown into the fire so early is something Palmer admires.
"He’s come into the league and just taken off, not thought, 'Well, I’m a young guy, I can’t come in and catch fire,'" Palmer said. "You’d never know he’s only in his second year. He’s a tremendous, tremendous talent and our defense has our hands full with him."