"It's amazing as a true football fan to play against the best players in the game or the best players I've been seeing since I've been growing up," Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie quarterback, said Wednesday.
"I have tremendous confidence. But it's still a privilege for me just thinking like a kid, not even thinking about going against him. I'm just like, 'Wow, we get to play J.J. Watt.'"
During the offseason, fresh off becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Winston said, "The player I'm most looking forward to play against has to be, probably J.J. Watt. It's going to be a fun matchup."
In a few days, Winston will find out if "fun" was the appropriate adjective to describe a showdown with the Houston Texans' disruptive defensive end. Watt, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has 60 sacks since 2011 and three through two games this season.
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, who has played against Watt five times, seemed surprised when told that Winston wanted to embrace Watt's challenge.
"I wish he didn't say that," Cherilus said near his locker room stall, with some laughter lifting around him.
Regardless, Winston said those words. And his wait is almost over.
The question remains: What will he find?
"He's an elite player," Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said of Watt. "He's at the top of his game. I'm not going to throw out any more than you already know about him. He's an excellent player. We're well aware that we need to game plan for him."
That game plan will include a requirement that offensive linemen be on full alert. The Bucs have allowed seven sacks -- two fewer than the Tennessee Titans' NFL-worst total. Winston also has absorbed 11 hits.
"There's a lot of focus on him, rightfully so," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said of Watt. "You can say, 'Hey, it's just another player. Hey, let's just do our thing.' No, it doesn't work like that. You have to put a lot of the focus on him. You have to do what you can to limit the opportunities that he gets. And that's tough duty. Easier said than done."
Winston might find out why Sunday.