To say that the Buccaneers’ 2020 second-round pick Antoine Winfield Jr. was born for this may sound like hyperbole. The defensive back comes to a young Tampa Bay secondary still searching for an identity. He is one of two Minnesota Golden Gophers drafted by the Buccaneers this past April. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson would be the other in the fifth-round. The outstanding safety and son of former NFL player Antoine Winfield Sr. looks to make an immediate impact.
Winfield Sr. played in the NFL for fourteen years with nine of those years being with the Minnesota Vikings. He would go to three Pro Bowls, selected second-team All-Pro in 2008, make the list of the 50 greatest Vikings, and the All Metrodome team. As a senior at Ohio State in 1998, he was a consensus first-team All American and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
As an adolescent boy, Winfield Jr. would watch tape of his dad from his high school days at Garfield High in Akron, Ohio. It was the beginning of a habit of watching game film. This would be the bedrock of a young career that would make him one of the best defensive players in the country. When Winfield Jr. was old enough, his father would queue up video and show him the tricks of the trade. Such things as ferreting out opponents’ tendencies and learning to predict what play they’ll run before the snap. Instruction that would eventually lead him to be selected as a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2019. An award given to the best defensive player in college football.
Ready for Prime Time
Winfield Jr. played in Raymond James Stadium this past January in the 2020 Outback Bowl. The Golden Gophers would go on and win a 31-24 contest over the Auburn Tigers. The 21-year-old has already shown himself to be unflappable. As a true freshman in 2016, Winfield Jr. would make his first collegiate start against Penn State. Playing in front of 95,000+, Winfield Jr. would finish the day second on the team with eight total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a pass breakup.
Before the game, the University of Minnesota defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel would bypass the motivation thought or inspirational speech coaches usually give to a player. He turned to Winfield Jr. and said, “You were born for this.”
In 2020, the NFL might just realize this was not hyperbole at all. Just a simple fact.