Former Florida State quarterback and top NFL prospect Jameis Winston says that he did not steal crab legs from a Tallahassee, Fla., grocery store in April 2014, but was instead given the food for free by a Publix store employee.
During an appearance on ESPN’s Draft Academy, Winston discussed his off-the-field issues with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch before the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
When the crab legs incident was mentioned, Winston asked Fisch how he was supposed to address the issue with NFL personnel who will ask about it.
'How I'm supposed to handle, like, if I just got them for free? I just say, 'I just messed up?'' Winston asked.
Harbaugh replied, 'If someone gave them to you for free?" and then wanted further clarification about the story.
'Well, a week before it was my buddy's birthday, and we had got a cake and we met a dude that worked inside Publix, and he said, 'Hey, anytime you come in here, I got you.' So that day we just walked out, and he hooked us up with that," Winston said.
"And when I came in to get crab legs, I did the same thing, and he just gave them to me and I walked out. And someone from inside the store had told the security that I didn't pay for them. And that's how the whole thing started.'
Publix denied Winston's claims, saying in a statement that an internal investigation found that there was no such agreement for Winston or other Florida State athletes to receive free products.
The NCAA prohibits athletes from receiving and accepting impermissible benefits. Florida State said Wednesday it would work with the NCAA to examine whether Winston committed any violations.
Winston was cited for stealing $32 in crab legs and required complete 20 hours of community service. Winston was also suspended from the Florida State baseball team until he completed the community service.
Harbaugh told Winston to tell the truth when asked about his issues in college, which included being suspended for one game last season for jumping on a table in the Florida State student union and shouting an obscenity.
"Keep it in a tight, tidy box. Tidy box," Harbaugh said. "Came in, got some crab legs, left. You know, people in the store reported that I didn't pay for it. And they were right, I didn't pay for them and I [expletive] up. I should not have taken anything for free."
Winston was also accused of sexual assault by a female student during his time at Florida State. Prosecutors declined to press charges citing lack of evidence, and the school cleared him of violating Florida State's student conduct code regarding that sexual assault accusation. The accuser recently filed a civil lawsuit against Winston.
- Scooby Axson