On Sept. 2, Jameis Winston introduced himself to the college football world by connecting on 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns as Florida State rolled Pittsburgh, 41-13. The game was played on ESPN on Labor Day evening, opening a window for the entire nation to get a glimpse at the sport’s next big thing — a redshirt freshman quarterback making a Heisman case in his first start.
Twitter buzzed with Winston talk. Pundits raved, FSU fans drooled, Virginia baseball players laughed.
“Jameis Winston might be having a night but @Ktowns9 still went walk off biscuit off him,” tweeted Reed Gragnani at 11:17 p.m.
Gragnani, UVa’s former second baseman, stood at first base on May 25 when Kenny Towns ripped a 12th inning 1-0 fastball over the Blue Monster in left field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to give the Cavaliers a 7-4 win over Florida State in their final game of the ACC Tournament.
Yes, Winston was the losing pitcher.
“He threw a breaking ball for a ball the first pitch,” Towns said five months later. “I knew it wasn’t a situation where he was going to try to walk anyone, so I was just expecting a fastball.
“I happened to get it.”
With each college football week, Towns’ blast has grown more legendary in Virginia’s clubhouse.
“Our claim to fame in the locker room the past couple of days is Kenny hit a walk-off bomb off a future Heisman Trophy winner,” Wahoo catcher Nate Irving said on Oct. 20, a day after Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles crushed then-No. 3 Clemson, 51-14. “I think Jameis should invite him to the ceremony if he gets there.”
That event will take place at 8 p.m., tonight. Winston, the overwhelming favorite to take the hardware, will indeed be in New York’s Best Buy Theater for the festivities.
By all accounts, Towns will be watching elsewhere.
ESPN is scheduled to package all kinds of Winston highlights for its viewers. His toss left up in the zone to Towns, however, likely won’t make the cut.
But don’t expect the junior infielder to get through the night without hearing about it.
“We always talk about it, actually,” said UVa junior outfielder Derek Fisher. “Kenny doesn’t talk about it. But it’s pretty funny when you talk to people and say, ‘Hey, Kenny hit a walk-off home run off that kid.’ They’re like, ‘Whaaat?’ They start talking.
“It’s cool because Kenny never brings it up or talks about it. But when they show Jameis Winston on TV and the Heisman and all that, to think that we played against him and hit a home run off him, it’s pretty cool.”
Winston has thrown for over 3,800 yards with 38 touchdowns this season, guiding FSU to a No. 1 ranking and a spot in the national championship on Jan. 6 against Auburn.
The stat line is a bit better than the 3.00 ERA and .235 batting average he posted in the spring.
“I’m nothing but impressed just watching him play,” Towns said. “It’s pretty cool just watching him knowing that we played him in baseball. Obviously, I get reminded a little bit of that — my moment against him.”
But will Towns get a chance to replicate that moment?
Virginia will travel to Florida State for a three-game series on April 25. Will Winston be warming up in the bullpen?
“I’m kind of curious to see if he’ll keep playing baseball — if they want to keep him healthy or not,” Towns said. “I feel like he wants to play baseball, but who knows.”
If Winston’s baseball career is over, that means Towns was the last ACC player to get a first-hand account of his 94 mph fastball.
He took it for a walk-off biscuit.
“It’s pretty cool,” Towns said.