Kellen Winslow was one of those toddlers who never fell down. His father can’t remember ever seeing his son trip or display an ounce of clumsiness. From the day he took his first step, he was supremely comfortable in his own body.
“I knew by the age of 7, he was going to be a better athlete than I ever was,” the Chargers’ Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr., said. “I realized that it was going to be my goal to keep him away from tackle football as long as I possibly could.”
Winslow grew up playing youth soccer, basketball and baseball in La Jolla, Calif. He also explored other interests such as music before he was allowed to join his high school football team as a freshman. Thanks to his father, the former Browns star tight end grew up knowing that there was a lot more to life than football. And that may go a long way in explaining how Winslow ended up being a Jet this season, how he persevered through two tough periods in his life when the sport he always loved was suddenly taken away from him.
Winslow, 30, ignited a minor fantasy football frenzy in Week 1 when in his first game in almost a year he caught seven passes for 79 yards and one touchdown in the Jets’ win over Tampa Bay. The performance caught many off guard, because there had been a lot of questions about just how much mileage was left in Winslow when the Jets signed him in May.
From 2006 to 2011, Winslow was one of the most productive tight ends in the league, averaging 72 catches a season. He was able to do this despite ripping up his knee in a 2005 motorcycle accident that caused him to miss the entire 2005 season as he battled staph infections and endured knee surgeries.
In 2012, however, Winslow played in just one game — he had one catch for New England — after being a late-summer cut by Seattle when he refused to take a salary cut.
“Here I was 29 about to turn 30, and no one was calling,” Winslow said last week. “It was hard, really hard. I never lost confidence in my ability, but I lost confidence in the system. I was always determined that I would be back, but there were some days where I wondered if someone was going to want me.”
Winslow credits his family — his father and his wife, Janelle — for helping him through the darker days.
“Kellen knows that football isn’t everything, that there’s so much more to his life,” said Janelle, who Winslow first met when he was 14 years old. “He knows his football career is not forever, but when it was taken away from him and not on his terms, it was a hard thing for me to see him go through.”
Winslow has developed a nice bond with rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Despite having no catches in the Jets’ win over Buffalo last week, Winslow is the Jets’ third-leading receiver with 10 catches for 95 yards.
Winslow Sr. thinks the Jets are a great fit for his son. He plans to be at every home game and about half of the away games this season, cheering on the son whom he once wouldn’t allow to play football.
“Right now, he’s very happy,” Winslow Sr. said. “Being there with Rex and Marty [Mornhinweg], it’s a good place for him. He’s at peace.”
Around the league
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Jeremy Ebert and Tobais Palmer off the practice squad, adding to their group of receivers because of injuries to Mike Brown and Stephen Burton. The team waived guard Jacques McClendon and quarterback Ricky Stanzi. … Miami Dolphins end Cameron Wake and two other defensive starters are listed as questionable for Monday night’s game at New Orleans. Wake (left knee), tackle Paul Soliai (knee) and linebacker Koa Misi (shoulder) were all limited in practice Saturday.