Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. drafted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Winfields’ large living room in The Woodland, Texas, was euphoric the second Minnesota Golden Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday. Family members screamed, jumped up and down and then some giddily left the room when Winfield was selected with the 45th pick.
Winfield pumped his fist, clapped and headed out of the room as well, riding high from the milestone moment.
The consensus All-American became Minnesota’s first second-round pick since tight end Maxx Williams went 55th overall to the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. Winfield is the highest U player taken since defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman went 37th to Atlanta in 2014.
ESPN commentator Louis Riddick said before Day 2 of the draft that franchises taking Winfield and Alabama safety Xavier McKinnie are going to get a “fantastic player.” He later called Winfield one of his most favorite players.
But Winfield slipped a bit as the fourth safety off the board after McKinnie went 36th to the Giants, followed by Kyle Dugger, of Division II’s Lenoir-Rhyne’s, to the Patriots at 37th. Then Jim Thorpe Award winner, LSU’s Grant Delpt, went 44th to the Browns.
Winfield also had to wait as one of nearly 60 players giving live TV feeds from their living rooms. On Thursday, ESPN cut into the Winfields’ home in suburban Houston late in the first round Thursday, but it was a quiet scene with Antoine Winfield Sr. saying a few things and the kids quiet, staring at their phones.
Once the pick was made Friday, Winfield Sr., a first-round pick by the Bills in 1999, he was the first to head to a back room to celebrate. Winfield Jr. will play on the Bucs with 6-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who played against Winfield Sr. seven times.
“That’s crazy, but Tom Brady’s the GOAT,” Winfield was quoted by the Tampa Bay Times on his new 43-year-old teammate. “It’s going to be crazy when I see him in person. He’s one of my favorite players. It’s crazy that my dad played against him. That’s just wild for me to think about.”
Winfield said from an early age he was doing footwork with his dad in the back yard and watching film in bed on a laptop. At the NFL combine, he recalled one time at age 11 when he and dad dissected film of Lions’ receiver Calvin Johnson. “That’s a cool experience that most people don’t get to do,” he said.
Across 13 games last fall, Winfield showed he could stay healthy, with a team-high 88 tackles, seven interceptions and was named Big Ten defensive back of the year. He rebounded from playing eight total games in his previous two years due to hamstring and foot injury in 2017-18. Winfield is 5-foot-9 and 203 pounds, but ran an impressive 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
Former Super Bowl champion and former Gopher quarterback Tony Dungy tweeted, “Antoine Winfield is going to be a playmaker.”
Fleck focused on Winfield’s versatility with the sure tackling of a linebacker, the cover skills of a corner to guard receivers and tight ends and hands of a wide receiver.
“They are getting a relentless football player, with an incredible high IQ,” Fleck said Thursday. “He’s a lot in a little frame and everybody talks about his frame, but I think that’s what gives him an advantage.”
“They are getting a gem; that’s for sure.”