Dave Boling

Dave Boling: Jameis Winston adheres to Russell Wilson’s fitness regime

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown 20 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in his second NFL season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown 20 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in his second NFL season. The Associated Press

If Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston appears lean and athletic and effective against the Seahawks on Sunday, credit/blame could be attributed to Russell Wilson.

Until recently, the young Winston apparently had a weakness for a certain type of food: that which was within arm’s reach.

“Any type of food that was put in front of me was going to be (eaten),” Winston said Wednesday in a teleconference with Seattle-area media.

But the Seahawks should not expect the Tampa Bay quarterback to be slowed by excess Thanksgiving stuffing when the teams meet Sunday.

Winston picked up tips on dietary discipline and other elements of professionalism from Wilson, the Seahawks’ quarterback, when the two met at the Pro Bowl in January.

“He actually helped me with my offseason preparation as far as eating right and making sure I kept my body right,” Winston said.

Winston struggled with inconsistency as a rookie as well as early this season, but over the past six games has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and he has the Buccaneers at 5-5 and clearly on the rise.

As the first player taken in the 2015 draft, Winston would be expected to have enormous physical skills.

But because of suspected character issues arising from off-field incidents at Florida State, it was questioned whether he would be mature enough to become the face of the franchise — the common expectations for a first-overall draft pick.

Winston is only 22, having won the Heisman when he was still 19. Wilson, in contrast, turned 24 his rookie season.

Not only is he ripening as a quarterback, Winston has turned into a team leader, having inspired his teammates before last week’s win over Kansas City with a letter he read to the group. His message was how much was still ahead of them after the rocky start, and how proud he is to be their quarterback.

“Jameis is a natural leader,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Wednesday. “I thought he did a really nice job as a rookie of picking his spots, not stepping on some of the vets’ toes. But when the time was right, he moved in there.”

The measure of his leadership, Koetter said, was that Winston was a unanimous vote by his teammates to be a captain this season.

The letter, Winston explained, “… just put everything back in perspective; the guys went out and they fought real hard for each other.”

The win in Kansas City gave Tampa Bay four wins in the past six games, which has changed the feeling around the team.

“Just more of a family atmosphere,” Winston said. “If we play together, there’s a better chance we can win together.”

It might seem difficult for a 22-year-old to stand up in a room of veterans and talk about what they needed to do to make the season a success? But not for Winston.

“One thing about the leadership role, you’re never too old, you’re never too young and you never can count someone out,” Winston said. “Everyone is typically open to it as long as it’s from the heart.”

Maybe this attitude is something else he picked up from Wilson. Winston said he’s watched film of him, and how he exploits his athleticism with passing and rushing. But he also admires his professionalism.

“I had a chance to spend some time with him at the Pro Bowl, just seeing the type of guy he is. He’s just a top-notch, guy, a true professional,” Winston said.

Winston’s experience in 26 NFL games is the key to his advancement, Koetter said.

“Seeing the best defenses in the world on a weekly basis, you’re either going to sink or swim,” Koetter said. “Jameis is a fast learner and a great competitor.”

But it seems that Winston also is pretty good at listening to advice from guys like Russell Wilson.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440, @DaveBoling