Sometimes athletes are just destined for greatness. They’re a child prodigy like Lebron James, a high-draft pick like Peyton Manning, or a highly sought after international signee like Yu Darvish. We’ve seen the signs, and the impact players like these make on their respective sports.
However, their breakout was expected. Their competitive nature, charisma, and talents were evident from the start. For others, they had to scratch and claw their way to relevancy.
Their rise to success was unpredictable, unforeseen, and unimaginable, and the 2013 boasted many of these candidates.
Let’s see who made the list this year.
1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State Seminoles
What a season this young man has had. Just 19, the redshirt freshman won every major player of the year award that was physically possible. Winston also broke the FBS freshman record with over 3,800 passing yards to go along with his video game like 38 passing touchdowns. In addition, Winston led Florida State to the BCS Championship against the Auburn Tigers and an undefeated record for the Seminoles in 2013.
Let’s just say it’s been a magical ride.
As a redshirt freshman, Winston also has the unique ability to become the first two-time Heisman trophy winner in NCAA history and his pro prospects remain stunningly bright.
We’re going to see plenty of Jameis Winston in the years to come.
2. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Labeled just a two star receiver by Scout.com before committing to Baylor in 2009, Gordon has had an interesting road to superstardom. Thrown into a wide receiver core that boasted other future NFL weapons like Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright, Gordon flashed huge playmaking ability catches passes from Robert Griffin III at Baylor, but was also plagued by inconsistency, and off the field issues like positive marijuana tests and drug possession.
Gordon transferred to Utah in 2011, but sat out the entire season before declaring for the 2012 supplemental draft where he was taken by the Cleveland Browns in the 2nd round. Physically, Gordon was impressive. He ran a 4.4 40-yard-dash to go along with his 6’3” 225lb frame.
But his character was questionable to say the least. Gordon posted a respectable 50 receptions for 805 yards in his rookie season, but had to sit out the final two games of 2012 and the first two games of 2013 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That put him just one positive test away from a year-long ban.
After sitting out the first two games of this season, Gordon has put on a big play-making, cornerback-dominating run of a 2013 season. And what a breakout it has been.
The 22-year-old leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,564 yards (in 13 games no less), rewrote the record books by becoming the first receiver to top 200 receiving yards in consecutive games, and the record for most receiving yards (774) in a four-game span.
He also broke the Browns franchise record for receiving yards in a season, and the record for the most happy fantasy owners in a single season.
What. A. Year.
3. Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors
The former Davidson alum made a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament, draining threes and showing off his natural ability. But there were questions about his pro prospects. Questions like: How will he stand up to better competition? Is he big enough? Will he be able to facilitate an offense as a point guard?
And now all those questions have been answered.
Stephen Curry is now a star in this league, and one of the premier scorers in the NBA, adding the ability to get in the lane in 2013 to compliment his already lightning quick release from the outside.
Generously listed at 6’3”, Curry took another step forward statistically this year, averaging 23.0 PPG and 8.0 APG, the PPG rank Curry 8th in the league and his APG rank 2nd. In the midst of a breakout season, Curry should stay among the league leaders in points and assists for many years to come.