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Myrtle Winston, grandmother of Bucs QB Jameis Winston, dies

TAMPA, Fla. -- Myrtle Winston sat beside her grandson Jameis Winston on the opening night of the NFL draft two years ago, their eyes fixated on the television screen.

She wore a black dress with a shiny garnet jacket -- a silver cross adorning the left side of it -- and a sparkly silver necklace. She held his hand, then clapped hers together in delight as his name was announced as the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He kissed her on the cheek during that special moment. On Saturday, he'll do the same as he lays her to rest. She died earlier this week at the age of 70 in Bessemer, Alabama. They'll celebrate her life in a special service at the New Bethlehem Baptist Church.

She was the reason Jameis Winston stayed home in Alabama during the NFL draft, so they could share that special moment together, rather than him walking across a stage under bright lights in a big city. Her Type 2 diabetes didn't allow for her to travel.

She was the reason he was hoping he'd be selected by the Buccaneers, because she'd be 2½ hours from Atlanta and less than five from New Orleans.

She was there for his first-ever win as an NFL quarterback, in Week 2 inside the Superdome in New Orleans, proudly wearing her No. 3 jersey that read "Grandma" on the back, while sitting in a wheelchair. She had to get clearance from her doctor to be there for the game, which took place a few days after her birthday.

"My grandma never came to my college games, so that was amazing to see her out there. To see her out there on the sideline before the game, I was pumped up," Winston said to reporters, his face beaming with excitement.

He'd thrown a pick-6 on the very first pass play of his NFL career the week before, and the Bucs were beaten badly 42-14 by the Tennessee Titans. He had picked himself up and could now call himself a "winner."

"I talked to our team chaplain from Florida State. He said, 'Your grandma is not here for you just to see you play football. She's here because you're her grandson.' And that just touched me. I was like, 'She ain't here to just watch us play football. She's here to support me.'"

She was the reason he wanted to make it big time. When he got his first NFL contract, his first big purchase wasn't a fast car or a house -- it was a fancy recliner chair for her. For years, she had been sitting on hard wood.

"It was like a $4,000 chair," Winston said. "It was one of those lift chairs." It even had built-in massage functionality.

She was the reason he became heavily involved in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. That's why he wore powder-blue cleats that said "Type One to Type None" for the NFL's My Cause My Cleats game.

"I have a true passion for her," Winston said. "I have a true passion for those kids that battle a disease that we haven't found a cure for yet."