Salute Cleveland’s newest soldier: Kellen Winslow

Jonas Fortune

As far as Cleveland Brown drafts go, they have been pretty unbearable.

Chris Palmer’s two first-round picks, Tim Couch and Courtney Brown, never lived up to their hype. After that, I began to wonder if Butch Davis would put players’ names into a hat and let his children pluck which one he would draft the next day.

He passed up LaDainian Tomlinson with the third pick in the 2001 draft for Gerard “Big Money” Warren. I can now think of a few better nicknames for Warren, and Tomlinson has become one of the best backs in pro football.

William Green was Butch’s big pick in 2002, and Jeff Faine was the first round addition in 2003. Of all these first round draft picks, Green is the only one who remains on the roster, although it is by a thread.

So, when the Browns took Kellen Winslow Jr. with the sixth pick in the 2004 draft, I really didn’t care for the pick. Was he the best tight end in the draft? Yes. Did he have tremendous upside? Extremely. Was he an “F’n soldier”? You know it.

At the University of Miami, Winslow was somewhat of a head case. For all the amazing plays and talent he showcased, Winslow never knew when to shut his mouth.

Who can forget his rant after the 2003 game against Tennessee when he compared football to war and declared he was an “F’n soldier”?

Winslow’s behavior made me question whether the Browns really needed more immature talent on their roster. So, when Winslow put his career in jeopardy doing boneheaded motorcycle stunts, I really wasn’t too shocked. But that incident seemed to have changed Winslow.

He is back from his injuries and seems hungrier than ever, perhaps with a new sense of humility as well.

Although he is considered a third-year pro, Sunday’s game against New Orleans was just his third professional game.

For such a small resume, Winslow hardly played like an injury-riddled rookie. He finished with eight receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. But it was the way Winslow went about his business that sparked interest the most.

He stiff-armed a defender all the way to the end zone for his 18-yard score then spiked his helmet on the sideline in celebration.

Later he obliterated a defensive back who tried to give him bump coverage late in the fourth quarter. The defender was completely uprooted and went flying through the air as Winslow never really seemed to miss a step.

Of course I can’t leave out the ridiculous attempt he put on a ball in the end zone. As a defender hung all over him, Winslow reached up with one hand and palmed a Charlie Frye pass in perhaps the most freakish exhibition of athleticism I have seen in a while.

By performing all these feats with a tenacity unheralded by any Brown in a long time Winslow has a chance to be that superstar that team has yearned for since its return.

If the “F’n soldier” can deliver more solid performances like Sunday’s, the “Dawg Pound” will have to learn how to salute.

Contact sports columnist Jonas Fortune at [email protected].