Antoine Winfield Jr. welcomes return to Ohio, selection by Browns

Minnesota All-American safety projected to be a Day 2 pick

Daryl Ruiter
February 28, 2020 - 12:00 pm
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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (92.3 The Fan) – Antoine Winfield Jr. learned the game of football from his father at a young age and he’s weeks away from following in his dad’s footsteps to the NFL.

Winfield Jr. didn’t get a chance to go to Ohio State, where his father was an All-American cornerback, but he stayed in the Big Ten making a name for himself in Minnesota’s secondary.

“Watching him work hard throughout his career is what taught me how to work hard,” Winfield said Friday at the NFL Combine. “That’s what I can attest to me being here.”

The Browns are in the market for safeties this offseason and Winfield, who projects to be a Day 2 selection, would fill a major need.

“I would be a blessing to go back to Ohio,” Winfield, who grew up in Texas but was born in Columbus, Ohio, said. “That’s where all my family is from so it would be fun to go up there and play for them.”

Winfield Sr., an Akron, Ohio native, was a three-time Pro Bowler who played his first five seasons for the Bills before moving on to Minnesota where he anchored the Vikings secondary for nine seasons.

 “At a young age I was getting taught things that most other kids weren’t even thinking about at the time,” Winfield Jr. said. “Having an All-Pro dad play football and then he’s out in the back yard doing foot work, so I go out there with him. I’m doing footwork at an early age, watching film at an early age, doing everything that most kids wish that they had, and I don’t take it for granted at all.”

The similarities between the two are striking and hard for the younger Winfield to ignore.

“I’ve seen a couple of moments,” Winfield said. “I would say it comes when I’m tackling. Like I make a tackle and I’m like, ‘oh wow, I’ve seen my dad make the same tackle watching his highlights and it’s just crazy just to see the comparison between us because we play pretty much the exact same.”

Winfield started nine games as a freshman, but injuries derailed his 2017 and 2018 seasons before bouncing back in 2019 was named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. He was named an All-American and Big Ten defensive back of the year this past season.

His father watches and critiques every game – some advice is solicited, some not but it is what has made him the player he is now and given him what he believes to be an edge during the draft process.

“I think it gives us an upper hand,” Winfield said. “If you got family members that have been through it firsthand, you can always lean on them for advice and they’ll tell you pretty much anything you need to know prior to coming to an event like this.”

Some experts question Winfield’s size, but that’s not what he plans to answer for teams this week in Indianapolis.

“There have been a lot of questions about my speed,” Winfield, who said “for sure” he’d beat his father in a 40-yard dash, said. “I’m ready to prove a lot of people wrong with my speed.”

The young Winfield would prefer to pay free safety at the next level, but he’s flexible, which he feels will work to his advantage in April.  

“I think my versatility is my biggest thing,” Winfield said. “You could play me anywhere on the field. I’m effective in the blitz game, I’m a sure tackler, I have great range from sideline to sideline and I create takeaways.”