A week ago, Jameis Winston's father, Antonor, said that the plan for his son is to stay in college until he received his degree, and play two more football seasons and one more baseball season. That would mean passing on millions in the 2015 NFL draft.
At once, many in the media expressed doubt about this idea. Jeff Cameron, of 97.9 ESPN Radio, had a good take on the matter here (audio begins at 5:15 mark). The people with whom I speak privately inside FSU's program, while wishfully hoping Winston does return, also laugh at the notion while expressing a lof of skepticism. I, too, would be shocked if Winston returns for the 2015 football season.
Let's break down some of the angles of the potential decision.
Winston is almost certainly a top-10 pick in the 2015 draft
If Winston is the first or second quarterback picked in the 2015 draft, as he is almost universally expected to be, he will be slated to earn roughly $23-25M dollars in his first four seasons, $15M of which comes up front in a guaranteed signing bonus. After taxes, and paying his agent, and depending on which state in which he's playing, Winston will have netted about $14M by the end of the 2018 NFL season.
That is life-changing money for Jameis and the Winstons. I do not know the family's exact financial situation, but it is publicly known that Winston's father did or does work the night shift filling pot holes in municipal Birmingham, and that Winston spoke emotionally during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech about having to provide for his family after his father lost his job.
Those who would compare Winston's situation and potential return to college football with that of Andrew Luck are failing to consider that Luck's father, Oliver, played five years in the NFL, has been a pro football GM, was the CEO of the Houston Sports Authority, Vice President of Business Development and President and CEO of NFL Europe, President of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, and has been the athletics director at West Virginia since 2007.
The family financials of Winston and Luck are simply not in the same ballpark. Given that, money may be a more important factor in Winston's decision than it was in a player like Luck's situation.
If he stays in 2015, Winston will unfairly endure more scrutiny and criticism because Florida State is gradating at least 8 of 10 non-Jameis starters on offense after the 2014 season
Gone are Cameron Erving, Tre' Jackson, Austin Barron, Josue Matias and Bobby Hart. Wait, that is the entire starting offensive line! But that's not all. Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary and Karlos Williams are also graduating. Yeah, his top two targets and the starter at running back. As are expected contributors (but perhaps not starters) Christian Green, Kevin Haplea and Jared Haggins.
The only starters expected back for FSU are a receiver (who is yet to be named) and fullback Freddie Stevenson. That's it.
We have seen in recent drafts how much prospects have been picked apart for their performances, even if those lesser performances are not their fault and instead the fault of the talent around them. The Florida State offense will be significantly worse in 2015 than it was in 2013 or will be in 2014. That is an unavoidable conclusion. And if Winston returns to play with that supporting cast, his numbers will look worse, and evaluators will not give enough weight to the change in surrounding talent and experience. His draft stock will drop as a result, through no fault of his own.
Not a true college experience in Tallahassee
It's well known that Winston's life in Tallahassee is not exactly a normal, or fun college experience. A celebrity of Winston's magnitude cannot truly enjoy going out in a place like Tallahassee. He is constantly mobbed by fans and haters alike when he goes out.
"Winston is analyzed, scrutinized, followed, like a professional athlete. But he's not paid. If you're going to put up with the headache that comes with that, you might as well be a multi-millionaire." -- Jeff Cameron.
Winston's own father recently called for him to have a 24/7 handler:
"He's supposed to have somebody around him 24/7," says Antonor Winston. "He a Heisman Trophy winner so (he's) definitely not supposed to be by (himself)."
That Winston's father is being asked about his son's future pro plans in June is ridiculous, and shows how famous Winston really is
Have you read any articles about the parents of other draft hopefuls being asked about going pro in June? No. This whole thing is a bit ridiculous.
Degree worth little value to person pursuing NFL career
If Winston were to leave after his 2014 football season, he would be, by my calculations, roughly 30 credits shy of his bachelor's degree. Granted, that degree is of limited or no value to someone who will be making a living playing professional sports. The point of college is to 1) prepare a student for the chance to get a job in his chosen profession and 2) to mature and grow and be involved in the college experience.
We've already established that Winston is not getting the college experience often described by people who explain that college is more than getting a degree. And a degree is not necessary or even helpful to play in the NFL.
But, ignoring the complete lack of benefit Winston gets in earning his degree in the next three semesters as opposed to coming back and getting it once he is already in the league, and assuming that Winston does want to be a college graduate, consider this:
Winston is slated to receive about $15M in guaranteed money. After taxes, at his out-of-state rate (Alabama resident), Winston could afford to finish his current degree and earn 208 additional degrees from Florida State. But Florida State only offers 168 majors, so Winston could get an additional 15-20 masters or doctorate degrees.
And if Winston were to become a Florida resident at some point during that time, his tuition rate would decrease, which means that he could receive even more degrees. And to receive all of these degrees, he'd probably need to live to about 200 years old, which, perhaps with all those doctorates, he could find a way to make happen.
Let's use a chart to see just how costly Winston's decision would be over the first 10 years of his hypothetical NFL career.
The point being that Florida State and the opportunity to get a degree are not going anywhere, but Winston electing to stay in school an extra year, even if his draft stock doesn't drop at all (which it very well could), is sacrificing one of his prime earning years in the NFL, and delaying the time at which he can sign a second, considerably more lucrative contract, than his first. Staying in school means not earning $2M+ in salary (in addition to the $15M signing bonus) in 2015 as an NFL player. That is a year of earnings that Winston can never recoup on the front end, and a year of earnings he can never recoup on the back end as he will be the same player at the end of his career regardless of whether he comes out in 2015 or 2016.
All to finish up a degree that will in all likelihood not help Winston earn anything close to what he can make in the NFL? The true cost of staying to get that degree over the course of his rookie deal is about $6M (salary plus a quarter of the signing bonus), which comes out to $200,000 per credit hour, or roughly 270X as expensive as the rate a normal out-of-state student would be forced to pay.
Winston has likely already taken a course in economics and will likely come to realize that opportunity cost of his decision.
Making a decision before the season is foolish and unnecessary
While Winston is projected as the No. 1 or No. 2 quarterback taken in the 2015 NFL draft, there is no certainty in June that he will be. Draft projections this far out are notoriously unreliable. And while Winston may have been the first quarterback selected in the 2014 draft were he eligible to come out, and is expected to play very well again, given his talent, greater experience, and talent around him, there is no guarantee that he will. Or that he will stay healthy. There is no true benefit to making a decision on this matter at this point.
I understand the sentiment of saying that education is important and reiterating that the plan all along has been to stay four years (three seasons), and that saying this really helps out with recruiting, but I think a better answer to these questions would be something like:
"While I/we am flattered by the question, I really cannot make that determination at this time. I can only hope that I'll be blessed to be in the position to make that decision, and when the time comes, I'll discuss it with my family and the coaching staff, and make the best decision I can. Right now, I am focused on making Florida State the best team we can be in 2014."
There is also the issue of baseball. Winston is a good, but not great, prospect. He is a poor hitter who has a strong arm on the mound. And his potential to earn a lot of money in baseball, particularly early, guaranteed money, pales in comparison to what he can make in football due to his playing the premier position in the sport. Additionally, there is very little chance that an NFL team will let Winston be a pitcher, due to his making a living in the NFL with his arm and the significant chance that he could injure his arm in baseball and impact his football career.
Injury rates for pitchers are much higher than they are for position players, and given that, combined with the added time demands of being a quarterback in the NFL, make it extremely unlikely that Winston is going to be a two-sport star as a professional unless he is willing to make major concessions in guaranteed NFL money for the chance to try.