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Friend turned foe: What lessons has Jameis Winston learned as he aims to start for New Orleans?

The top pick in the '15 NFL Draft, Winston spent five seasons as the Bucs' starting quarterback, earning just one winning season and zero playoff appearances.
Credit: AP
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) in action prior to the NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

TAMPA, Fla. — Basking in the offseason glory of a Super Bowl season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fans have all but forgotten some of the darker days of the franchise.

Of course, there’s a reminder of those days playing within the division: Jameis Winston. And, he’ll be looking to pour some salt in old wounds twice in 2021 if he gets his chance to start for the New Orleans Saints.

The top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Bucs, Winston spent five seasons as the starting quarterback and helped the franchise earn just one winning season and zero playoff appearances.

The arrival of Tom Brady finalized any questions about Winston’s future with the franchise, but he didn’t travel far to find his next chance in the NFL. Signing with the Saints, Winston had to watch for most of the 2020 NFL season as his new team won both regular-season contests against his former team but lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Now, Winston’s time with the Buccaneers is becoming a memory, but his presence in the division will keep his name among our conversations from time to time.

Wednesday is one of those days as the friend-turned-foe spoke about his career experiences, where they’ve taken him, and how he plans to use them to fuel his future; a future expected to start this coming season as the new starting quarterback for the defending NFC South Champions.

In a recent video taken while Winston spoke to younger, aspiring NFL stars, Winston started one of his trademark motivational speeches by saying, “I went from being the number one draft pick to being − everybody laughed at me.”

His message was one of resilience and perseverance. Characteristics of Winston we’re all very familiar with. Bucs fans will also recognize his work ethic. Something the quarterback says is still with him, even pointing out his level of effort rising above Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott who stood just feet away at the time of the speech.

The problem in the past with these words has been a lack of displayed learning and adjustment in on-field behaviors. The gunslinger always came out, even as the player stood at the podium with a message of learning and improving.

It seems now Winston will get another shot at proving he’s learned how to be a smarter quarterback. One capable of unleashing the big play only when it fits the moment in the game, and for his team.

Some would rather move forward and not think about the past when it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I can’t say I blame them. But, with Winston gearing up to lead his Saints against the Bucs at least two times in 2021, his awareness of where he’s come from is clear, and you better believe he hasn’t forgotten about us.

For more on this story, and all things Tampa Bay Buccaneers, check out the Locked On Bucs Podcast.