Fall 2021 SS Magazine

QB Jameis Winston shines in Saints season opener with 5 TDs, his identity in Christ

The Jameis Winston era in New Orleans could not have gotten off to a better start.

The 27-year-old quarterback tossed a league-best five touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday en route to a 38-3 demolition of the Green Bay Packers in his first-ever start with the Saints. His 130.8 passer rating also accounted for 148 passing yards.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

The Week 1 matchup was scheduled to be played in front of 70,000 raucous fans at the Superdome in New Orleans, but it was moved to Jacksonville, Florida, due to Louisiana’s continued recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The Saints practiced in Dallas all week in preparation for the game.

The hurricane wasn’t the only factor that could have hampered Winston’s performance; Sunday’s game was also the first since beloved Saints quarterback Drew Brees retired this past March. But if following the all-time leader in career passing yards in NFL history intimidated Winston, he certainly didn’t show it.

His first two touchdowns came via short passes in the second quarter that gave the Saints a commanding 17-3 halftime lead. After a touchdown in the third quarter and another one on the first play of the fourth quarter, Winston finished off his incredible day with a 55-yard bomb to Deonte Harris with 10:46 remaining.

“We were prepared,” Winston told the media after the game. “That was the message today. My trainer texted me this morning that ‘pressure is for the unprepared.’ … Despite the adversity of being in Dallas and all that we’re dealing with at home, our mindset stayed the same. We prepared to play against Green Bay and prepared to the play the best football that we could, and we did that.”

The 2021 season is Winston’s second in a Saints uniform after an eventful five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Florida State after winning a Heisman Trophy and a national championship as a freshman. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie but was not re-signed after the 2019 season, with the franchise opting instead to replace the sometimes turnover-prone Winston with Tom Brady.

Last year in New Orleans, Winston saw playing time in four games during Brees’s injury-plagued final season, but took a back seat to Taysom Hill as the team’s replacement starter. In this year’s training camp, however, Winston won the starting job.

Before his final season with the Bucs, Winston joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast to discuss his relationship with Christ and His steadfast love that has strengthened Winston to persevere.

“I’ve been through ups and downs,” he said, “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 in college). I knew that my identity always has been in Christ.”

He continued later, “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. 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 said God has taught him humility in the face of success. God has orchestrated all things and given him the football talent to be an NFL player. Winston knows it’s not ultimately his doing, and therefore not guaranteed.

But one thing he’s seen — whether playing in a Pro Bowl or sitting on the bench and waiting for another opportunity — is God’s kindness toward him.

“He loves us no matter what. He is forgiving of us. His grace is so sufficient,” Winston said.

Winston will lead the Saints to Charlotte next Sunday to face the 1-0 Carolina Panthers. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

RELATED STORIES:
SS PODCAST: Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston enters contract year with his identity in Christ
SS PODCAST: Former NFL QB Christian Ponder on marriage, retirement and identity
Drew Brees partners with Pray.com: ‘Prayer has been my consistent, go-to secret weapon’
5 College QBs to Watch in 2021: DJ Uiagalelei gives Clemson another faith-driven leader