Antoine Winfield Jr. is gaining some guidance from his famous father, a former Ohio State All-American, as he takes on the twists and turns of the recruiting world, but for the most part, he's blazing his own trail. Emphasis on the word blazing.
Antoine Winfield Jr. is gaining some guidance from his famous father, a former Ohio State All-American, as he takes on the twists and turns of the recruiting world, but for the most part, he's blazing his own trail.
Emphasis on the word blazing - the father handed over the son's report card from the one-day skills camp at Ohio State earlier this week. The spots for two shots at the 40-yard dash revealed 4.27- and 4.35-second timings. The father smiled proudly. Even the son was taken aback.
"I was shocked," Antoine Jr. said. "That's the fastest I've run. I looked at it and I was like, 'Wow!' "
Call it a home-away-from-home-field advantage, because the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was his father's base of operations during a stellar collegiate career that culminated with him winning the 1998 Jim Thorpe award, signifying the best defensive back in the country. He went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick of the Buffalo Bills (23rd overall in 1999) to start a 14-year career that ended with Minnesota in 2012.
Now, Antoine Sr. and his family call The Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston, their home, where Antoine Jr. has risen to become a star for The Woodlands High School. That's why father and son were at Ohio State, trying to increase Antoine Jr.'s exposure and value on the recruiting front. He already holds offers from Michigan State, Northwestern and Houston, but wants to see if he can impress a few others - like the Buckeyes.
"We're on the camp circuit right now," Antoine Sr. said, pointing out that the next stop was at Michigan State on Thursday. "Next week, we're going to UCLA. It's just a very exciting time for my son to go through this process. I'm just happy for him."
Antoine Sr. is retired from playing, but he has three sons and he said the beat goes on.
"Football is our life," he said. "All they do is play football, talk football, the same way I did as a kid. This is a very exciting time for our family."
Antoine Sr.'s name still raises eyebrows. Despite standing 5 feet 9 and weighing 180 pounds, he was one of the great tacklers in the game during his career.
His son, a little taller and heavier, doesn't see bearing his father's name as a burden.
"That's not stopping me from doing what I have to do," Antoine Jr. said. "I work hard. I compete. I'm just playing my game. That's all I'm doing."
Whether an offer eventually comes from his father's alma mater - Ohio State already has 16 commitments to its 2016 recruiting class - remains to be seen. Antoine Sr. is doing his best to steer the car without giving directions.
"Ultimately, it is a decision for him to make," he said. "I'm not putting any pressure on him."