Antoine Winfield Jr. did not get the opportunity to come home for college.
What about the next chapter of his football career?
The Minnesota Golden Gophers safety said he would welcome the opportunity when someone at the NFL Scouting Combine mentioned the Browns could use help at his position.
“It’d be a blessing to go back up to Ohio,” he said. “That’s where all my family is from, so it’d be fun to go up there and play for them.”
MORE FROM THE COMBINE: Ross grad looking to overcome injury | Alter’s Finke happy for another chance to beat the odds
Winfield was born in Columbus, where his father and mother both attended Ohio State, and moved around as a youngster while his father played for the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings.
The family settled in Texas after Antoine Winfield Sr. concluded his 14-year pro career, but they still have a strong family presence in the elder Winfield’s hometown of Akron.
A three-star prospect in the class of 2016, the younger Winfield ended up at Minnesota after not being recruited heavily by then-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
“I felt wherever I went I’d do my thing, so there wasn’t really a chip on my shoulder,” he said of not ending up with the Buckeyes. “I’ve felt I’ve always had that anyway, but I grew up an Ohio State fan, since both my parents went to Ohio State. It was no hard feelings.”
Despite having two seasons cut short by injuries, Winfield Jr. logged 177 tackles and nine interceptions for the Golden Gophers.
He was a unanimous All-American last season and named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year while playing with an instinctual, hard-hitting style reminiscent of his father, an Ohio State Hall of Famer who was a two-time All-American and won the Thorpe Award as a cornerback in 1998.
“We’re almost about the same in size,” said Winfield Jr., who 5-foot-9, 203 pounds at the combine. “My dad had a lot of heart, and that’s kind of what I looked up to in him. Seeing him go out there against professionals and great guys that you see on TV all the time, that’s something I kind of modify my game after. It’s not about how big you are, how tall you are — it’s about how much fight you have.”
Early workout numbers: Alter graduate Chris Finke was credited with a 4.57 in the 40-yard dash on Thursday night, the first night of workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine.
That beat all three receivers at the combine from Ohio State but was well off the fastest time of the receivers who ran.
That belonged to Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, who logged a blazing 4.27 to easily outpace Quez Watkins of Southern Miss, whose 4.35 was second in the group.
Chase Claypool, a teammate of Finke’s at Notre Dame, ran a 4.42.
The fastest time for an Ohio State receiver on the first night belonged to Austin Mack, who ran a 4.59 to edge K.J. Hill and Ben Victor. They both clocked in at 4.6.
Dayton tight end Adam Trautman ran a 4.8 to rank 13th among tight ends.
The fastest tight end was Albert Okwuegbunam of Missouri, who ran a 4.49, while the fastest quarterback was Cole McDonald of Hawaii (4.58).
Joe Burrow, the LSU quarterback widely expected to be taken No. 1 by the Bengals in April’s draft, did not run.
In the bench press, Hill led the Buckeye trio with 17 reps, tied for seventh-most among the receivers, while victory had nine and Mack did not take part.
Trautman tied for sixth-most bench press reps among the tight ends with 18.
Arnette: ‘I owe football’: To say Damon Arnette values the role football has played in his life would be an understatement.
The Ohio State cornerback made clear his appreciation for the gridiron game Friday morning during interviews.
“Without football I wouldn’t have this opportunity to be in front of you guys answering all these questions about football,” he said. “I wouldn’t potentially be able to get paid to do something I’ve done since I was 6 years old. Without football, I feel like — football has taught me accountability. Football has taught me how to sacrifice. Football has made me a better man — a better man meaning a father to my son. So that’s why I owe football, you know what I’m saying?”
After a so-so junior season in 2018, Arnette opted to return to play for the Buckeyes one more season and learn from new secondary coach Jeff Hafley.
That appears to have paid off as Arnette, who graduated with a degree in communications following the last summer semester, ended up on the All-Big Ten second team as a senior after logging 35 tackles, one interception and eight pass breakups.
NFL.com rates the 6-foot, 195-pounder from Florida as a “good backup who could become a starter.”
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