Winslow walking the talk
'The Chosen One' backs up banter with spectacular abilityPosted: Friday August 08, 2003 6:29 PM
Updated: Friday August 08, 2003 6:56 PM
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- Running across the middle during a summer workout, Miami tight end Kellen Winslow made a one-handed catch on a ball thrown well behind him. Some of his teammates oohed. Others awed. Quarterback Kyle Wright just shook his head.
It was hard to tell whether they were reacting to Winslow's catch or his chatter.
"I must be 'The Chosen One' because nobody can catch like me," Winslow yelled.
The nickname has been with him since. Even coach Larry Coker talks candidly about it. But nobody likes it more than Winslow, the ultra-confident son of an NFL Hall of Famer who has emerged as the top tight end -- maybe even the top receiver -- in the country.
"I am arrogant," Winslow said Friday at the team's annual media day. "But I'm also a modest guy. I know what I can do, but I don't brag about it or anything. When I'm really hyped up on the field, that's when I'm a cocky guy. But off the field, I'm just a normal guy."
Given his ability, the Hurricanes will gladly deal with his ego.
Winslow caught 57 passes for 726 yards and eight touchdowns last season -- his first year as a starter. He spent most of 2001 playing behind Jeremy Shockey and working on special teams.
Although he was Miami's third option last season, with first-round NFL draft picks Willis McGahee and Andre Johnson carrying the load, Winslow still broke school records for tight ends for receptions, yards and touchdowns.
And against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, Winslow became the go-to guy. He had 11 receptions for 122 yards and scored a touchdown that gave Miami its only lead in overtime.
"Nobody's going to make that catch but him," Coker said. "He comes over the top of a guy to make the catch. And about five of his catches were terrific hits after the catch. He may be 'The Chosen One.' I'm kind of talking myself into thinking he is.
"If he wants to be 'The Chosen One,' then fine. All I care about is production. He's a tough guy, he competes and he's got great skills."
The Hurricanes expect Winslow to play an even more prominent role in the offense this season, so much so that the school already has touted him as a Heisman Trophy candidate -- even though no tight end has ever won the award given to the nation's most outstanding collegiate player.
Winslow added 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-5 chiseled and shaved frame, developed more lower-body strength to become a better blocker, increased his vertical jump to 37 inches and even took a flexibility class that included ballet lessons.
He already was too big for safeties and too fast for linebackers. So now what?
"I want to be better than my father," he said. Easier said than done.
His father, San Diego Chargers great and NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, revolutionized the position in the 1980s. The younger Winslow wants to do it again.
It could happen, especially considering the impact Shockey has had in one NFL season. And Coker says Winslow has better speed and better hands than his Miami predecessor.
Winslow might even have two more years to develop, too.
The 245-pound junior made a surprising promise Friday to return for his senior season if the Hurricanes don't win the national title.
"If we win the national championship I'll leave, but if we don't, I'm staying," he said. "I just have to win one [as a starter]. I haven't won one myself. As a freshman, I was on special teams. I just made a couple of tackles but I didn't really do anything. I just want to know what that feels like."
He insists the prospect of being a first-round pick won't change his decision.
"I'm just a kid. I don't know what $10 million feels like; I don't know what a million feels like; I don't even know what a thousand feels like," he said. "I might have a twenty in my wallet and that's it. All I know is that this team really wants to win a national championship. We're going to win it."