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Corey Winfield finds stability after rocky high school experience and position switch

first_imgHis athleticism went beyond just the cliché definition and it drew the eyes of Division I schools, even though Riverview was hardly a hotbed for prime-time football. The school couldn’t host night games because of fights that broke out in the stands years before. Players wore different game pants on the sideline. Decade-old equipment was still in use since the budget couldn’t fund upgrades.“They had athletes, but they had no identity,” said Ty Baker, one of Winfield’s high school coaches. “To really bail them out of a lot of bad situations, they would call on No. 3, which was Corey.”Tim Lester remembers watching in awe at Winfield’s high school highlight tape, comparing the plays he’d make to NFL Pro Bowler Randy Moss. He recalls Winfield returning his first six kickoffs for touchdowns his senior year before teams stopped kicking to him.And despite enduring one- and two-win seasons, Winfield’s 40-inch vertical jump and glue-like hands drew enough attention at the next level.“He was just like, as long as I’m doing my work and doing what I’m supposed to do, I can make it through,” his mother, Tina Winfield said. “And he did.”**Winfield, his mother and his uncle, Neal Richardson, were unable to answer calls from Northern Illinois because of a malfunction in their phones. The team who first offered Winfield was trying to sway him back after he decommitted but couldn’t get in touch. At the same time, Syracuse coaches were in St. Louis for a visit.Winfield eventually pledged to the Orange as Scott Shafer’s first recruit and headed to Syracuse with aspirations of being a starting wideout. Even when wide receivers coach Rob Moore left for the Buffalo Bills, Winfield still wanted to climb the depth chart at the position he’d been playing since he was 5.But when he was called into Shafer’s office, the head coach proposed he switch to the side of the ball he’d never played before.“He called me and I could hear it in his voice that he was very upset, very frustrated, sad, disappointed,” Richardson said. “It was one of the lowest moments I think he’s had at Syracuse, was during that position change and having to deal with that.”After being burned by Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller for a 72-yard score in his first game at cornerback last year, Winfield called his uncle again, this time expressing frustration with learning technique and doubts that he could grasp it.He assumed the role as Syracuse’s primary gunner on special teams, but struggled to learn the intricacies of the position that’d get him in the starting lineup as the Orange lost eight of its last nine games.**As Winfield returned an interception for a touchdown against Rhode Island for SU’s first score of the season, it brought back memories of high school. He felt like a wide receiver scoring touchdowns, just on the other side of the ball.His athleticism, which by consensus is the best on the team, is gradually being complemented by an improving technique that was once his downfall.“When I first moved him there his technique was horrible,” Shafer said. “It’s one thing to have ability, but ability in and of itself isn’t worth a hill of beans and he understands that.”Winfield’s main focus is on perfecting the shadow technique instead of worrying about who his next head coach will be. He has a complete playbook to showcase his intangibles. And his athleticism, after six years of instability and turnover, now has a structured foundation on which to thrive.“Corey is one of the ones you can use for an example,” Baker said. “You can say, ‘Hey, regardless of what school you go to or what bad situation you have going on at your school, you can make it out of this situation and you can go to something bigger and better.’” Comments Corey Winfield knew the play call even without a playbook.His Riverview Gardens (Missouri) High School team, in disarray because of budget issues at the school, didn’t have one. Instead, most huddles followed the same process.“We went to the huddle,” Winfield said, “…and my quarterback was just like, ‘You already know what’s going to go down.’”He knew the ball was coming his way. He knew he’d be able to mount the defender to make the catch. And he knew he wanted to be a star Division I wide receiver. But with four different head coaches in four years and a school that lost its accreditation his sophomore year, the foundation to groom a freak athlete lacked stability. Winfield never had a winning season at Riverview but drew attention with a knack to not only rise above defenders, but also the surrounding struggle.After committing to Syracuse and redshirting his first year, Winfield’s position coach left for the NFL. Then he was asked to switch to cornerback. College was supposed to be an escape from the inconsistencies of high school, but instead it brought them back.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNow a third-year sophomore, Winfield has two interceptions through SU’s first two games. He has a stronghold on a starting spot and has blossomed under the tutelage of the same head coach that arrived when he did. His foundation, once an obstacle, now serves as a platform to fine-tune the technique to become a standout cornerback.**Winfield stopped in his tracks to retreat on an underthrown ball. Draped by a defender, he elevated to make the catch, touching his knee to the defender’s shoulder in the process.Referees threw flags as the crowd fell silent.“They were just like, ‘So what’s the call,’” Winfield, a sophomore at the time, said of the referees’ reaction. “ … They never knew what the call was so they were just like forget it, we just going to let it rock.”The same year, Winfield finished as a state runner-up in the long jump – his first year in the sport – posting a mark of 22 feet, 6 inches in the final. Published on September 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidmancenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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