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Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston enters contract year with his identity in Christ

The 2019 NFL season will be one of adjustments for fifth-year quarterback Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Coming off a 5-11 finish last season, the Bucs parted ways with head coach Dirk Koetter and brought in Bruce Arians to replace him. Arians soon set about retooling the coaching staff by bringing in Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator and Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator.

Winston is excited about what the new-look Bucs are capable of. Arians, in fact, had a major impact on Winston’s development as a quarterback over a decade before he ever became his head coach.

As Winston recounted on an April episode of the Sports Spectrum Podcast, he met Arians at a high school football camp. It was Arians who sharpened Winston’s NFL aspirations.

“He gave me an opportunity to put on his Super Bowl ring,” Winston said, “and that really inspired me to go after being a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and to go after being an NFL quarterback.”

Winston never looked back. He made himself into a five-star recruit out of Alabama and signed with the Florida State Seminoles. He was a dominant force throughout his college career, winning the 2013 national championship and Heisman Trophy, and going 26-1 as a starter in college. Tampa Bay made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and Winston proceeded to throw for more than 4,000 yards and make the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.

Since then, however, the Bucs have too often struggled on the field while Winston has too often found his name in the national media for the wrong reasons.

Now, as football season fast approaches, Winston is entering the last season of his contract. He knows 2019 could go a long way in determining the rest of his career, yet he knows that everything in life — even his spot on the Bucs’ roster — is ultimately a gift from God.

“God is the source,” Winston said on the podcast. “He gave you all this. Everything that you have is His. It’s not yours, boss. So humble down. Yes, you worked hard, but He gave you the ability to do that. He gave you the opportunity to do that. And there were people in your life that helped you get to where you’re at now.”

Another new face in Tampa that Winston plans to spend a lot of time with, on and off the field, is quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, who was a guest on the Sports Spectrum Podcast last year. His faith has already made an impression on Winston.

“To hear his story of how he grew up, hear his testimony, to hear his walk with the Lord, has been phenomenal,” Winston said. “It’s something that I really admire about him. He gets really deep.”

Winston said he grew up attending church but did not become a born-again Christian until November 2014.

“All the glitz and glamour, all that, it didn’t really matter because I’m not doing this for [humans], I’m doing it for God,” Winston said on the podcast. “I’m doing it for God’s pleasure. I’m not doing it for man’s pleasure or for my own fame. So I had to understand that, and once I made that commitment in November 2014, I knew that was just the beginning.”

Winston has seen firsthand the important role other believers play in the life of a healthy Christian. Spiritual mentors poured into his life in college. Now, as he seeks to grow incrementally closer to God each day, he has again tried to surround himself with Christians in all walks of life. He recently hired a life coach to help him spiritually, and now with men like Christensen inside the Tampa Bay facilities, Winston has come to realize more clearly that the only true source of satisfaction is in God and His Word.

“I’ve been through ups and downs, but one thing about me is I always knew that my identity wasn’t in football, that it wasn’t in baseball (which he also played through college),” he said. “I knew that my identity always has been in Christ.”

Winston is now at the point of his career where he is transitioning from being one of the young guys to being a veteran. He knows he must be someone his teammates can lean on if he wants to make a deep run in January. Now suddenly one of the longer-tenured Buccaneers, Winston is embracing his role as a leader on the field.

Off the field, the leadership doesn’t end. He now has a fiancée and a son to care for. His son’s birth was a moment of astounding joy for Winston, but also one God used to deliver a powerful message.

“His birth really just showed me a glimpse of what it really meant for God to love us,” Winston said, “because He knows that we will never live up to His satisfaction. But He loves us no matter what. He is forgiving of us. His grace is so sufficient.”

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