Jameis Winston’s Been Saying ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ His Whole Life

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

Jameis Winston says he doesn’t know the lyrics to the Eagles fight song, but he knows just about everything else a self-described Eagles fan should.

His favorite player of all-time is Randall Cunningham, and he grew up rooting for “Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Jevon Kearse — all the guys that played for the Eagles in the early, mid-2000s.”

And this weekend, he’ll have the chance to play against his childhood team for the first time.

“I’ve been saying, ‘Fly Eagles Fly,’ my whole life, now I have to go up there and face them,” Winston said in a conference call Wednesday.

Winston, 21, who grew up in Bessemer, Ala., has plenty of ties to this weekend’s game with the Eagles.

On top of being an Eagles fan growing up, he also comes from the same hometown as DeMeco Ryans, who he’s known since he started playing football back in Alabama.

“Same city, same hometown, homegrown,” Winston said of his connection with Ryans. “Growing up, [Ryans] was everyone’s role model, from not only the athletic standpoint, from the academic standpoint of how smart he was, and how he carried himself as a man from the great state of Alabama.

“It’s just an honor that I’m going to be able to play against him this week, and just play against someone that comes from my city that we looked up to. It’s a blessing.”

Winston, who had his fair share of questionable moments during his time at Florida State, said Ryans has always been a good source of advice for him.

“[Ryans told me to] keep your head up and keep going,” Winston said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. He always kept me up, and it just meant a lot from him, any little advice he has, because he has his business together.

“He’s been in the NFL for a long time now, and still finds a way to reach back to his hometown and help one of his hometown brothers out.”

Ryans echoed those sentiments Wednesday.

“My message to him was just, ‘Don’t listen to all the outside noise.’ It’s easy to get distracted, with everybody talking about you, everybody saying bad things about you,” Ryans said. “It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you’re such a high-profile player.

“I just told him to stay the course, and understand that his name’s always going to be out in front. He just has to stay positive and stay out in front, and continue to do the right things.”

Ryans said that his first memories of Winston take him all the way back to his high school days, playing at what was at the time called Jess Lanier High School and is now called Bessemer City High School.

Winston’s uncle, Harry Winston, was a coach on the Jess Lanier football team’s coaching staff, and Jameis was always around his uncle at practices and team events.

“[Winston was] a young kid, throwing the ball around,” Ryans said. “He always talked about how great he was in his little league, how he was just dominating the game back then. I always kind of kept up with him and knew he was going to these special quarterback camps.”

Ryans said he’s been impressed with the way Winston has progressed from Week 1 to Week 10.

“I’m happy for him, I think he’s doing a good job with what they’re asking him to do, and he’ll continue to get better,” Ryans said.

Winston said this weekend will be the first time he’s visited Pennsylvania since the first game of his collegiate career, when Florida State beat the University of Pittsburgh.

Ryans was watching that night.

And as for the lyrics to the Eagles fight song, a reporter cracked that the young quarterback will know them “by the end of the day on Sunday.”

“I hope they give me a program,” Winston said, joking around. “Don’t they usually have the words to the song in the program?”