Brian Winters has been misplaced for a long time. He’s a guard at heart.
Winters’ body type and blocking style are better suited for a guard than a tackle. He’s powerful with a strong base, and more important, he’s got a mean streak in him that’s more often than not found in the “Big Uglies” on the inside.
But at Hudson High School and then Kent State, Winters was placed at left tackle. Each time he was by far and away the best lineman on the team, and the best lineman on the team always plays left tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side (if he’s right handed).
Winters was a wrestler in high school and liked the nastier, tougher side to blocking. He was in the trenches but exiled to the outside, where his combination of strength and athleticism was most needed. But he missed being on the inside. In the dog fight.
“I feel like guards are more of the nasty guys on the line,” Winters said at last week’s NFL Rookie Symposium in Berea. “I would have played guard if there was someone to play tackle. It’s the power position on the line. The competition as a ‘driver,’ that’s what I love. At tackle, you can get away with technique. At guard, it’s like a dogfight.”
Winters was drafted by the New York Jets in the third round (130th overall) in April and is finally going home to his spot at guard.
He’s got the right attributes and the right mentality. But he still hasn’t played there in a long time. The Senior Bowl was Winters’ first time, so it’s become a process to become acclimated to not only the speed of the NFL game, but doing it while switching positions.
“There’s a lot of different things I need to work on but [Jets offensive line coach Mike] Devlin and [assistant offensive line coach Ron] Heller have done a lot with me to progress to where I am,” Winters said. “It’s a lot of different techniques and footwork but I’ve come a long way, which is great.”
Winters couldn’t have fallen into a better situation with the Jets. Also on that offensive line is Willie Colon, a seven-year veteran who made his start with the Pittsburgh Steelers and who, like Winters, made the transition from tackle to guard.
“Willie, he’s kind of taken me under his wing, which is awesome,” Winters said. “He’s taught me a lot. All the little questions, he’s always there to help me. He watches me when he’s not in and helps me.”
Life in the big city
Winters might have a mean streak on the field but off the field, he’s a small-town kid who says he mostly likes to keep to himself. But he was drafted by the Jets, and Hudson and Kent aren’t quite like “The Big Apple.”
After his selection, Winters traveled to New York for the first time in his life.
“It was a culture shock for me,” Winters said. “I’ve never experienced any type of city. My girlfriend is from Chicago; that was something, too. I just like my ways, I’m not a big-city boy. I don’t like to go out of my way. But I went down, met with the people, it was great. I’m excited.”
Winters must be getting used to being slightly out of his comfort zone. As he finds one home at guard, he leaves another behind for New York and the NFL.