TALLAHASSEE, Fla. >> Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston announced that he is going to the NFL on the same day the woman who accused him of sexual assault filed a lawsuit against the school’s board of trustees.
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner announced his decision to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2015 draft in a statement released to ESPN by The Legacy Agency Wednesday.
Winston was the most successful quarterback in college football during the last two seasons, but also faced lengthy sexual assault investigations. He was not charged by police and was cleared by the university.
In a lawsuit filed against the school’s board of trustees, the woman who accused him of sexual assault claimed the board had an unreasonable response to her accusations and created a hostile educational environment for her. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
A Florida State spokeswoman did not respond to a message left at her office. Representatives for the woman declined comment.
The Seminoles went 26-1 with Winston starting and won the 2014 national championship.
"I reached this very difficult decision after careful consideration and long thought, realizing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family at Florida State," Winston said. "I will always take pride in leading our team back to national prominence and am confident that my returning teammates will continue the success for many years to come."
Winston set the national freshman record with 40 touchdown passes while throwing for 4,057 yards and 10 interceptions en route to winning the title. His numbers dropped in 2013 after losing his top two running backs, two starting receivers and his starting center. Winston threw for 3,907 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2014.
Winston is expected to be one of the first quarterbacks selected, but faces questions about his off-field incidents.
NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt said NFL teams will find out everything they need to know about Winston’s background from league security. Brandt helped build the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys as vice president of player personnel from 1960-89.
"Initially, he’s going to get a grade and it’s going to be very good because he is a good player," Brandt said. "They’ll look at the Notre Dame game and see all the unusual blitzes that they brought against him and what he did. They’ll look at the Louisville game where he threw three interceptions and knocks the ball loose from the interceptor and throws a touchdown pass the next play.
"The way he’s played this year is unbelievable with all of the problems that he’s faced and all the adjustments he’s had to make to practice times and to do all the things that he has to do to defend himself, give depositions, appear in court before the student body, all of those things."
A state attorney declined to press sexual assault charges against Winston in December 2013. The university cleared him in December 2014.
Winston was suspended three baseball games for the theft of crab legs from a Tallahassee, Florida, grocery store during the spring of 2014. He was also suspended from the Clemson football game in September after the quarterback made "offensive and vulgar" comments about female anatomy on campus.
Coach Jimbo Fisher supported Winston throughout.
"I would like to wish Jameis nothing but success at the next level as I think he’ll be extremely successful," Fisher said in a statement Wednesday.
"It was a blessing to be able to coach him. He’s one of the unique players that I’ve ever had the privilege to coach. He embodies what you as a coach want as a person, a student and a player. He’s a genuine and honest guy. He’s one of the greatest players in Florida State history."