RANDY SANDERS: I didn't know I was doing this, but it's great to be here. Obviously we've worked very hard. It's been a great season. We've been fortunate to have a tremendous staff, a lot of good football players, and we've gone out and played well each week. Just an opportunity to play for the National Championship is what you want when you start the season. It's what you work for when you start in January.
To be here, we're very excited, very privileged, very honored, and look forward to playing the game.
My question is for the coaches, both coaches. When did you guys realize how dominant an offense you were putting together for this season, an offense that I think the lowest amount of points you had was 37 in one game.
LAWRENCE DAWSEY: I would say the Pittsburgh game. Going into the season with a freshman quarterback, not really knowing what to expect, yeah, seen some good things in practice, but actually going into that game and seeing the performance, seeing how well that not only the quarterback played but the receivers, the backs, special teams, just everything we felt right now if they continued to just work hard to get better each and every week, we had a chance to have something special.
Jameis, you began the season sort of as an unknown quantity nationally. You end it with a Heisman Trophy and playing in a National Championship Game. Can you describe how your life has changed this season?
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, my life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet. At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like okay, they've got a freshman quarterback. Nobody is going to pay any attention, now we're in the National Championship.
For you personally has anything changed?
JAMEIS WINSTON: Nothing has changed.
Jameis, did you think it would be this easy? You're making it look easy. Did you think it would be this easy? Or is it this easy?
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, we've got a team and the coaching staff that we've got, it looks easy. But people don't look at the behind closed doors and how much hard work we put into this. We prepared ourselves for situations like this and we prepared ourselves every day at practice and the things we do every single day.
Yes, right now it is easy because all of us, we've got our mindset on one goal and all of us going the same direction.
Lawrence and Randy, not to belabor the point, but are there moments during this season where you have to sort of remind yourself that Jameis is a freshman?
RANDY SANDERS: Well, what he's been able to do has been remarkable. The way our team has been able to play - it's always nice to have a good quarterback, but the quarterback is usually as good as those other 10 guys around him. Our defense has been able to play well, to put us in situations where we can continue to play offensively like we've wanted to play all year. You know, Kenny and the receivers have played phenomenal, the offensive line, the backs, O'Leary and what he's been able to do at tight end.
But yeah, what he's done is amazing. You ask has his life changed? Well, he's changed mine. Last year at this time I was 2 10 and out of a job. So to be here at Florida State in the National Championship Game is a dream come true for me.
LAWRENCE DAWSEY: Well, you know, being an alum at Florida State and just seeing how things have developed from the transition to where we are now, it definitely has. Just to watch this team get better and better each and every week, not only on the offensive side, but as a whole team, it's definitely changed.
What challenges, if any, does the one month layoff possess for the offense?
LAWRENCE DAWSEY: Timing, more so on the offensive side of the ball. You've got your timing, the route runnings and you're used to being in a certain routine. You get out of that routine and come back and try and get back in that routine. The timing is the main thing with the month layoff that you have to get back in after being away from the game for a month.
RANDY SANDERS: Well, bowl games are always a challenge a little bit. They're a lot like opening games. We played 13 games to this point but it has been a month, and you always try to balance as a coach how do you practice. How physical are you in practice, because the best way to be good at playing football is to play it and to practice the way you play. Obviously football is a physical sport and involves a lot of contact. But every time you go out there and do that, you're scared to death, you're not going to get to the game with all your good players.
I think our team has responded well. I look forward to the challenge.
Jameis, you had a difficult situation that you had to go through this year off the field. How were you able to stay positive and not let that affect you, and Kenny, you're pretty close to Jameis. What was it like watching him go through that and stay strong through that?
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, it goes back to the teammates. My teammates aren't looking at me anything differently because they know I did nothing wrong through the whole process. But at the end of the day, that kind of brought us closer together as a team, because dang, our quarterback is going through this situation, and dang, people still are not leaving us alone after we're having a successful season. But that brought us closer together as a team. That was a changing point in our whole team because that was a time we needed to get over the hump, we were playing against a Syracuse team that had confidence, and they were coming into our house and they had confidence that they would beat us. It got us back refocused to where we needed to be at.
KENNY SHAW: Looking at the situation from the outside in, you would think it would hurt the team, but we used it as a time to get stronger. We stayed close to Jameis because we knew the allegations wasn't true and all that. But we just got stronger and we didn't miss a beat.
Kenny, there's been several stories out there about how Jameis has been a leader from the start, a guy even at a young age who sort of came in and tried to grab the attention of upperclassmen. What was that like, to have an 18 year old freshman who wasn't even playing trying to be a leader, and even this year when he stepped into a starting role, for him to sort of be the leader of a team that had a lot of seniors on it, or juniors and seniors.
KENNY SHAW: Honestly it was weird at first because you're used to playing with quarterbacks two or three years older than you. But we took him in in the summertime and he gained our respect from then with seven on sevens and workouts in the summertime. Coach Fisher always preaches there's no limit to the ages of players. He proved that to us as teammates and the nation this year.
You guys had six new assistants on the staff this year, which is usually not a great recipe for making a big run. Why has that worked so well to be able to mesh the new guys in so well?
LAWRENCE DAWSEY: Well, Coach Fisher did a great job of selecting the right guys to come in to be part of the program. Me being the guy that was one of the guys that was left over, he brought them in, we interviewed them and he always asked our opinion on the guys, and what he did was particularly picked the guys that he knew and that he felt comfortable that would not only come in and do a great job but also come in and be quality guys, to have the family atmosphere that he has been having and also be great coaches.
He did a good job of picking the new guys that came in, and they all just got right in. Wasn't no egos with anybody, everybody came in with having one common goal, and that was making us the best team we could be.
RANDY SANDERS: I agree. I think that's the one thing, being one of the new guys that I was most excited about was the kind of staff Coach Fisher had been able to put together. Several of us had been coordinators at one time or another and had had big moments in big games. Just to have an opportunity to get around those guys and work and enjoy coming to work each day. We work hard but we enjoy coming to work. It makes it a whole lot easier to do your job when you really enjoy what you're doing and you enjoy the people you're around.
Jameis, talk a little bit about your relationship with Coach Sanders and how he's helped your development as a quarterback.
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, Coach Sanders is the main guy. What people don't understand is how much he actually does behind closed doors. Just the other day me and him were sitting down one on one watching film. He helped me so much and I've lacked to give him credit through this whole process, what he really has taught me. Every single day, Coach Sanders asks me what can I help you do to get better, and usually I say nothing and then he ends up giving me a reason why he can do.
What he's done for us to develop a relationship, it's hard because I had a good relationship with Coach Craig, but for him to come in day one and just me to have that automatic bond, this guy is hilarious, and just the way I look forward to coming to practice to get close by him team and you can see that with his past quarterbacks. We had Tee Martin at practice the other day and you just see the genuine love that his players have for him, and he's coached Peyton Manning and hopefully I'll be close to him one day, and just his résumé, he stacks up with the best.
Coach Sanders, you got to coach in the first BCS, now the last BCS. What's it like being able to - you beat Florida State and now you're with Florida State. There's a couple story lines with that.
RANDY SANDERS: Why you have to bring that up? If nothing else, I'm the answer to a trivia question, right?
It's exciting. When you play in the first one, you can't imagine it would be this long getting back, because we had a lot of good things going on at Tennessee at the time, we had a lot of good football teams.
I think having been in the first one, not that you take it for granted, but you kind of expect to do it again, and the fact that it's been this number of years between the two, I think not that I've worked any harder or any less for this one, but I've actually taken time to appreciate the fact that I'm here.
I think I'm in my 25th year of coaching, and having done it as long as I have, and as I mentioned last year wasn't a great season as far as success, but to get back and have this kind of success and be in this position, having done it as long as I have, makes me appreciate where we're at.
I look forward to going out there and playing the game because it's going to be fun, just being in that atmosphere, being in that arena is going to be fun. Obviously it's a whole lot more fun when you win, and we certainly expect to win. But from the first snap to the last snap, it's going to be fun.
Both coaches, I wonder if either of you have ever entertained the concept of a 19 year old quarterback being under center in the NFL, and how much do you entertain that concept now, whether it could happen or not this young for Jameis?
RANDY SANDERS: Well, whether he's 19 or 22, age is a number. The thing about Jameis is he's mature beyond his years. We have a number of guys - I think Kenny, even though Kenny is a senior, Kenny is a very, very mature football player, regardless of whether he was a senior or not. We're fortunate. We've got a lot of guys that understand what their role is on the team. They understand going about their business, and they do it in a very, very mature manner. I think a lot of that is a tribute to them but it's also a tribute to Coach Fisher and the way he's built the program.
But whether Jameis is 19, whether he's 22, whether he's playing at Florida State or whether he's playing in the NFL, I would expect him to play at a high level. That's what he does. That's what he expects of himself. He's done it 13 times this year, and does it pretty much every day at practice.
When somebody asked him the question earlier, does it make it look easy. Well, when you really prepare and you prepare hard each day, then game days are easier. I tell him all the time when you're making throws, try to make it hard on yourself. Make it as hard as you can in practice so when you get the opportunity in the game, it's easier.
I think we've got 85 guys on this football team that do that.
LAWRENCE DAWSEY: I agree with Randy. To get ready for a game, age don't really have an effect on it. Me playing in the NFL and me going in as a rookie and you see the older vets, if you come in and play, they don't care what age you are. They just want you to be able to help them win football games. Obviously we've got a special guy up here next to us that can get that job done, and we expect to see him in the NFL some day getting it done.
Randy, you talked about the difference between last year and this year for you. Ellis Johnson, kind of in the same position as you are. Just talk a little bit about your respect for him, and Jameis said you're hilarious. Did you know you're hilarious?
RANDY SANDERS: Well, he cracks me up sometimes, too.
Ellis, having been in coaching, as I mentioned, 25 years, and the previous 24 years was all in the Southeastern Conference, having played as a player in the Southeastern Conference and then coaching there, and Ellis kind of having his roots in the Southeastern Conference, we've faced each other a number of times. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his knowledge.
Whenever you coach against a guy as many times as we've kind of gone against each other, you have history. I can remember 2004, things we did, the way he reacted, the things he did, the way we responded to him, and it's pretty much been an ongoing process every year but about one or two there for about the last 10 years.
Good football coach. You know, sometimes as coaches we're all measured by our wins and losses, but the wins and losses don't always measure your true abilities to coach. It still gets down to players playing, and he had a year in there at Southern Miss that wasn't what he expected, but no question, good football coach. He's been in a lot of big situations, big games, and I know he'll bring his best game night.
Jameis, can you take us back to the Pitt game, your first start and that performance, I think 25 of 27 and all the touchdowns and the statement you made that day? Randy, how surprised were you? I know you've got a lot of confidence in him, but Game 1 for a freshman to have a performance like that.
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, that game was really just out of anger and out of happiness of me just being on the football field again. When you love this game so much and you've got to sit a whole year off, I mean, it kind of hits you into the heart, and it's like a reality check, like hey, bro, you were sitting on the bench last year.
When I came out to that game, I was like, I'm ready, and I had the weapons around me to help me do that. That's when, I mean, I realized as a player - back in the spring I realized we've got a great team, but I realized as a player, hey, we're out here gelling, we've got this little thing about us, and that's when I knew right then, FSU is going to bring that swag back because we went out there and just showed the world, hey, look at us, we're here, we're here to make a statement.
RANDY SANDERS: Honestly I wasn't really surprised. I was a little bit in awe, I think, like a lot of people, just the poise and composure that he had. You saw it every day in spring practice, through the summer, through the fall. But for it to show up on game day that way, that was nice to see. And he had two incompletions, one of them was a throw away, and the other one could have been ruled a completion on the sideline. I think it was a catch Kenny made on the sideline.
But the way he saw things, the accuracy he played with, and then our guys getting open, catching the ball and making plays around him makes it much easier.
Jameis, from start to finish, start of the season to the finish, through the controversy, do you feel you've been treated fairly in the press, in the media?
JAMEIS WINSTON: I mean, I can't control people's motives, but what I can control is what I do on the football field every single day and how I react around my teammates. That's what we really focus on because it's not over yet. Obviously we've got a great Auburn team that we've got to face, and it's an actual rivalry game for me because I'm playing the home state team. I mean, we just look forward to this game.
What people think outside of this and what people are trying to do, I can't control none of that. I just go out there and play football because I enjoy it and I love it and it's my passion, and I've got these boys around me, and that's what we love to do, go out there and play Florida State football.
Two questions: Kenny, Dr. Phillips high school, if you could comment about coming from there to here, and then Jameis, you've had such poise through all of the pressure that you just talked about, and when we ask some of your defensive players if they felt overshadowed they said know because if you could have voted for the FSU team for the Heisman Trophy, you would have. How has it been for you to stay to humble through all this hype? And Kenny, talk a little bit about your days at Dr. Phillips for me.
KENNY SHAW: Coming in from Dr. Phillips days, coming in as a high recruit, then you're coming into the Florida State atmosphere, it's a reality check that hits you because everybody else is bigger and stronger and you've got to find a new role. Being the man in high school, you're a little shrimp in college. Coach Dawsey did a great job of getting me level headed. The first two years there was a little rough for me, but coach Dawsey, he's a great father figure to me. I ascribe my success to him.
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, the defense is absolutely right. I definitely would vote for our team as the Heisman, and when I brought that thing back, I said, thank you to everybody, and I gave them the trophy. I said, hey, this is your trophy.
Actually the other day at Dave & Busters, somebody told Kenny congrats on winning the Heisman. I'm like, you're right. He won it for me.
When you talk about pressure to me, with my mentality, I'm thinking about just the stuff on the football field because that is my sanctuary, and pressure outside of everything else, that's something that I'm not focusing on, especially when I'm around all these guys because when these guys look at me, they see a - he's going to be smiling all the time, we probably have to tell him stop playing so much or we've got to tell him calm down. I'm very exciting and sometimes I do things around these guys that they just put their head down like this is our quarterback.
But pressure is something that I really don't focus on outside of the football field. I get most of my pressures when Coach Fisher is crawling down my back about making the wrong read or Coach Sanders telling me that I don't got my weight back and I just overthrew a six inch wide receiver wide open down the field in practice. Now, that's pressure.
This question is for Kenny and Jameis. Can you talk about the magnitude of the moment? Obviously you all are chasing a perfect season, trying to bring a BCS title to Florida State for the first time in more than a decade.
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, it means a lot just for Seminole Country. We've got Coach Dawsey sitting up here who's a Seminole himself, and I bet it means more to Coach Dawsey and I've been in meetings more with Coach Dawsey and Coach Haggins than anybody else because they're past Seminoles, and then we've got Coach Sanders here, who's got a past championship, and we've some of these guys on this team who ain't had a championship, like me personally, I haven't had a real championship since middle school.
This game means so much to me, like we've got people, like Telvin, Telvin won a lot of championships in high school but this is still the most important game to him in his life. When you've got the opportunity to play in a National Championship Game and your team is the only team on television, and then this game on my birthday, we're not going out there just to play around. We're not going out there to take anybody for granted. We're going out there to play a great game. We're going out there to do what we came here to do every single game, 13 games. It's not over yet. We've got a 14th one, and why not end this year with a victory?
KENNY SHAW: I mean, obviously this game means a lot to me because it's my last year. It's the best time to get it in my last year, my senior year.
Like you said, in high school I haven't got a state championship. I was always one round, getting eliminated, so I haven't got no state title. I ain't got no championships other than probably 2K championships against the boys.
I know it means a lot to the coaches because they put in so much work, so many hours with the film and everything. It means a lot not only to me but to my family and to the coaches. We're going to go out with a bang.
Jameis, maybe no other player can relate to some of the things that you've gone through than Johnny Manziel. Did you have a chance to talk to him at the Heisman ceremony, and if so what did you guys talk about, and has he kept in touch with you?
JAMEIS WINSTON: I did have an opportunity to talk to Johnny. He just told me to stay myself. When you think about the things that Johnny went through and then you see the things that he does on the field, it makes you forget about the things that's happening, and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to make football be my getaway, and that's what he's done a great job of, and that's why I'm glad I've got a team like this because they allow me to let football be the get away because when I look in their eyes, they're like, we're ready to fight. That's what we've got to do as individuals. We've got to fight for the rest of our lives because life ain't fair. So we can't just sit there in all the circumstances and all the things that we go to. We've got to live our lives on a day to day basis. What's wrong with dreaming? I dream about this my whole life and I'm going to keep dreaming until the day I die. I can't let nothing in the past control my destiny because today, right now, in the present, Florida State Seminole quarterback, red shirt freshman, senior, nobody, red shirt, senior, we control our own destiny, and that's how I'm going to live my whole life, no matter what goes on, no matter what I go through, and that's how I expect everybody in this room to live, that's how I expect the coaches.
If no one wants to set a certain standard for themselves, you don't have to. But one thing that Johnny did is he set a standard for himself. He's more focused on himself, more focused on the things that he do. That's why the guy went 30 for 38 against Duke and just ripped them apart and basically won that game by himself. That's why every day I come out here to play with my Seminoles because I know we're going to go out there and fight, we're going to control our own destiny and we're don't care about nothing else that's going on outside of this football team.