Jameis Winston owes Lovie Smith a debt of gratitude

Jameis Winston says that without coach Lovie Smith, "I probably wouldn't be where I am today." Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston said Wednesday that he owes head coach Lovie Smith a tremendous debt of gratitude for helping the No. 1 overall pick acclimate to life in the NFL.

“I think without Coach Smith, I probably wouldn't be where I am as far as the mental capacity and what it takes to be a true professional in this league,” Winston told the Chicago media. “The way that he treats us players and the way that he holds us accountable for everything, that really teaches you how to be a great man.

“Everything that he says is a teaching moment, it's a walking teaching tape.”

A controversial figure at Florida State, Winston is flourishing in the stable environment Smith created in Tampa.

“Coach Lovie, he teaches me something new every day,” Winston said. “I can’t really walk you step-by-step through the process that we’ve had together here at Tampa Bay. But what I can say is, without that man as my coach I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.”

The 6-foot-4 quarterback has played every offensive snap for the Bucs this season. Since the 1970 NFL merger, Winston’s 20 touchdown passes are tied for the third-most by a rookie quarterback through the first 15 weeks of the season. His five rushing touchdowns are tied with Shaun King (2000) and Steve Young (1986) for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in team history.

Winston should finish the season as the most productive rookie quarterback in Tampa Bay franchise history, barring injury.

“I love everything about Jameis Winston,” Smith said.