It you want to see former UC standout George Winn flash an ear-to-ear smile, all you have to do is mention a certain helmet-haired NFL draft expert.
“Mel Kiper,” said a grinning Winn. “Every time he mentions me it’s something positive.
“I get excited every time he gives me a shout-out. I really appreciate it.”
The ESPN analyst has been singing Winn’s praises in recent interviews previewing the upcoming NFL draft.
“A guy that I think will be a great 5th or 6th round pick — you’re always looking for that next Alfred Morris — is George Winn at Cincinnati,” Kiper told reporters. “George Winn, for me, is a very underrated player who I thought definitely showed the capability of being a guy who can contribute in the National Football League as a nice late-round pick.”
Morris, who is listed at the exact same size as Winn (5’10”, 218), was selected in the sixth round by Washington last year and had a sensational rookie season, setting the Redskins’ single-season rushing record with 1,613 yards.
“It’s a privilege to be compared to someone who had that great of a season.” said Winn.
The Redskins’ rookie – who played college ball at Florida Atlantic – saw his draft stock dive when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. Of the 44 running backs that ran in 2012, 33 posted faster times.
Winn also posted a disappointing 40-yard dash time at the combine as he ran a 4.75.
“I had a tight hamstring at the combine,” Winn told me. “The couple of weeks I had to prepare before my Pro Day helped me to improve the strength and health of my hamstring which really helped me run a better 40.”
In his March 13th Pro Timing Day at Cincinnati, Winn improved his time in the 40-yard dash to 4.53.
“They say it doesn’t matter much and you shouldn’t put much emphasis on it, but if it wasn’t that important they wouldn’t have us doing it,” said Winn. “So it’s clearly important.”
Winn took part in the Bengals workout for local prospects on Tuesday at Paul Brown Stadium, and since he grew up near Detroit, George will participate in a similar workout with the Lions on Wednesday. What is he hearing from NFL scouts?
“They like my running style, how I pass protect, they like my special teams value, so I’m pretty excited,” said Winn. “I’m excited to get out here and prove what I can do.”
One year ago, nobody would have expected NFL teams to have George Winn on their draft boards. In his first three years with the Bearcats, George never carried the ball more than 40 times in a season. But following the departure of All-Big East running back Isaiah Pead, Winn had a monster season in 2012, carrying 243 times for 1,334 yards and 13 TD.
“It’s surreal,” said Winn. “To come from where I came from and to be where I am now is amazing. It’s a blessing.
“I always go back to my freshman year when I was dead last on the depth chart. I started at the very bottom and worked my way up to the top.”
And if you believe Mel Kiper, Winn isn’t finished climbing.
“You think about what George Winn is physically, and moving forward, I think he can hold up in this league,” Kiper told reporters. “He’s five-foot-10-and-a-half, almost 220 pounds, and played a lot faster than (his 40-yard dash time). I think he’s got a chance to be a guy that could help your football team.”
I pointed out to Winn on Tuesday that Mel Kiper is a great guy to have in your corner at draft time.
“He definitely is,” George agreed with a laugh.
Has Winn met the nation’s most famous draft analyst?
“I haven’t,” said Winn. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to thank him a lot.”
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