Thursday, January 2, 2003
Winslow could give Miami a mismatch
By Mark Long
The Associated Press
PHOENIX - As far back as he can remember, Kellen Winslow Jr. always wanted to play football. He watched his father run routes, catch passes and block for the San Diego Chargers, and he yearned to do the same.
He pleaded with Dad, to no avail. The Hall of Famer didn't want his son to get burned out, stuck with a bad coach or injured at an early age, so he made him wait until he was 14 to play.
In the meantime, Senior taught Junior another game - chess.
"It's a game of war and strategies, and you've got the protect the king," Winslow Jr. said. "In a lot of ways it's just like football."
He became good at the board game, preparing and executing plans of attack while learning to outthink his opponents. It prepared him for football, and he credits it for helping him become one of the best tight ends in the country.
The sophomore took over the starting role this season and has become one of No. 1 Miami's biggest offensive weapons, creating mismatches for just about every opponent. He could play a key role in Friday's Fiesta Bowl against No. 2 Ohio State.
"In any sports that he did, I tried to teach him concepts," Winslow Sr. said. "And chess is the ultimate concept game. You have to understand how the pieces work, what you can and cannot do, how the strategy goes together. If you understand the concepts, then you can put it together and find out how you fit into that puzzle.
"And you can be successful once you understand the whole system."
Winslow fit perfectly into Miami's offense and eased the loss of NFL rookie Jeremy Shockey. Winslow has 46 catches for 604 yards and seven touchdowns, amazingly similar to what Shockey did last season: 45 receptions, 604 yards, eight touchdowns.
"It's been a big advantage for us to have guys who can run like that at tight end," quarterback Ken Dorsey said. "Both of them create mismatches for defenses, and that has been a big part of our offense."
At 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, Winslow is too fast for most linebackers and too big for most defensive backs. Though the Hurricanes don't run him deep very often, he is Dorsey's main target near the goal line, over the middle and in short-yardage situations.
"He's a tight end in a wide receiver's body," Ohio State safety Donnie Nickey said. "He's tall and fast and makes plays. He can be a handful for any linebacker, so you have to treat him like a receiver. He would be a receiver for just about every team in the Big Ten."
Winslow expects to get bigger, stronger and faster at Miami, and foresees remaining a tight end in the NFL - just like his father.
Winslow Sr. didn't want his son to have the same name, but his wife insisted. The son never felt pressure from being a namesake. He accepted Dad's legacy, and once he began playing football, started planning to be even better.
That is still the goal.
"I know one day I'm going to be better than him," Winslow said. "I'm serious. I want to be the best of all time and I'm working my tail off to get there."
His father cringes at the comparison.
"When it comes to playing football, I've just tried to make him understand to be yourself," Winslow Sr. said. "He cannot get wrapped up in what I did 20 years ago. I haven't caught a football in 15 years. That's a ghost, and I don't want him chasing ghosts."
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