Antoine Winfield Jr. pushes past Pro Bowl father’s legacy
INDIANAPOLIS — The old man thought he still had it.
It’s the eternal inner struggle for any father: “I can still go. I haven’t lost a step. You’re not ready for this, son.”
The son was ready.
Antoine Winfield Jr., a sophomore in high school at the time, lined up against his dad, Antoine Winfield, for a race.
“He thought he was still faster than me,” Winfield Jr., now 21, said Friday at the NFL Combine. “I was like, ‘No, dad, you’re getting old.’”
Winfield was still in his 30s and in the infancy of his retirement from his 14 years in the NFL at the time.
Yet, Jr. smoked him.
“He’s never talked to me about speed ever since,” said Winfield Jr., who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds during his Combine preparation.
During Friday’s media session with Winfield Jr., the former Minnesota defensive back answered dozens of questions about his relationship with his dad, on and off the field. The teams he’s met with in Indianapolis have inquired about his pops, too. He took it in stride, grinning through thoughtful responses but not allowing his bloodline to define him.
“I’m my own identity,” Winfield Jr. said. “I’m Antoine Winfield Jr. A lot of people call me Antoine Winfield. I’m like, ‘Nah, that’s my dad’s name.’”
From an early age, Winfield Jr. didn’t have to play football. He said his father told him to be himself and do what he wanted to do.
“I do it because I love football,” Winfield Jr. said. “I’ve been playing football my entire life, since I was probably two years old. There was never a moment where I felt like I wasn’t going to play football.”
The passion certainly couldn’t be extinguished by a lack of talent.
Winfield Jr. appears natural on the field, playing all over the secondary and returning kicks. Last season, he made 83 tackles, sacked the quarterback three times and grabbed seven interceptions.
He wants to start at free safety and field punts as a professional, and wouldn’t mind playing for any team. Because of his dad, he grew up a Minnesota Vikings fan.
Winfield Jr.’s goal for the league:
“Just to be myself. Try not to be like anybody else.”