All-American tight end says he's misunderstood

Updated: December 28, 2003, 8:08 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Kellen Winslow Jr. is a little uneasy in front of television cameras these days. And probably for good reason.

Just about everything he has said or done has gone wrong this season.

Miami's All-American tight end was criticized for nicknaming himself "The Chosen One" this fall and for striking a Heisman Trophy pose in the season opener. He was labeled selfish for saying he should be a bigger part of the offense. Then there was his highly publicized "soldier" rant after losing to Tennessee in November.

The son of Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow also was benched to start a game after several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

"I'm the son of my father. I have a lot to live up to," he said Sunday, four days before the Hurricanes play Florida State in the Orange Bowl. "There's cameras on me all the time. Everybody is watching me. So I think sometimes I'm misunderstood."

Winslow caught seven passes for 106 yards in October against the Seminoles. He expects another strong performance Thursday in what probably will be his final collegiate game. Winslow says he is ready for the NFL, and his coaches agree.

The NFL might be a better fit for the ultra-confident junior from southern California.

"In the NFL you can do anything, pulling cell phones from under the goal post," he said, referring to New Orleans receiver Joe Horn's antics a couple of weeks ago. "I just get fired up after a play and [college officials] throw a flag. I really can't be myself out there."

Hurricanes coach Larry Coker said he has received several calls from NFL teams inquiring about Winslow, wanting to know whether he is a team player. Coker assures them that none of his players are more passionate or competitive than Winslow.

But controlling his emotions have been a problem at times, most notably after a 10-6 loss to the Volunteers.

Winslow was penalized 15 yards late in the game for taking off his helmet. After the game, Winslow said his helmet was ripped off. He then lashed out at the officials in a profanity-laced tirade that ended with him referring to football as war and himself as a soldier.

He apologized a day later.

"People took it out of context, the whole war thing," he said. "Every coach does it. A lot of players say it. I just said it on ESPN and they blew it up. I'm sorry if I offended anybody, but everybody says that. People know what I'm talking about."

Coker benched Winslow the following week, citing his penalties against Virginia Tech and Tennessee. But Winslow said Sunday that the benching also had to do with his locker room comments.

"I learned from that and I've moved on," he said. "I'm a fired up guy. ... That's what Kellen Winslow goes through. They get you under a microscope. You really can't do anything about it. You just have to take it and move on."

Winslow has a team-high 55 receptions for 557 yards this season, but caught just one touchdown pass - a 6-yarder in the opener against Louisiana Tech. Those numbers are well below what Winslow expected, but they don't bother him nearly as much as the backlash he received from some of his actions and comments.

Although Winslow has refrained from speaking his mind after the "soldier" comments, he couldn't help himself Sunday when told that Florida State linebacker Kendyll Pope said Florida's Ben Troupe is "a better overall tight end" than Winslow.

"Well, [Miami linebacker] Jon Vilma is better than him," Winslow said. "He's entitled to his opinion, but I love proving people wrong. I don't know what Ben Troupe's stats are this season, but I've learned from the best. I don't want to sound cocky, but I'm extremely talented. I'm blessed. I don't really care about the statement. I've faced better linebackers than him."

Of course, he said this after the television cameras were off.

"Kellen Winslow is probably as competitive as anybody I've been around," Coker said. "He loves to play the game. Everything he does is with passion. That sometimes has gotten him into a little bit of trouble, and we've had to bring him back from over the edge.

"But he's as good as it gets. I would love to have every player on our team with that kind of passion and hunger and work ethic."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press