Winfree played for the Terrapins as a true freshman, and he had a first-down grab in the Foster Farms Bowl. But then he faced a suspension, a year at the Junior College level, and he suffered a torn ACL during his first camp with the Buffaloes.
“The knee injury was not my first setback in my life,” Winfree told BuffStampede.com. “I feel these setbacks are just there to help you get better. Sometimes you may need it as a way to get more humble, realize your blessings, so I honestly take all of this as a positive. I feel that each setback is something to learn from.”
Prior to suffering the knee injury last August, Winfree was using his versatility to excel at X-receiver and out of the slot. He believes his skill set - being an explosive 6-foot-3, 205-pounder with great hands - will be a valuable addition to a CU receiving corps that returns all of its starters from a year ago. And with a talented group of freshmen pass catchers set to join the mix this summer, co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini will have the challenging task of allocating playing time.
“I really don't know how it is going to work out but I know it will work out,” Winfree said when asked how the playing time riddle at receiver will get solved. “I am going to work my butt off to get in even better shape that I was in before the injury. If everybody is working, then they'll find a way to get us on the field.”
Winfree has not been allowed to participate in practices this spring, but his recovery remains ahead of schedule. He expects to be full-go when summer workouts begin.
“You want to take it slowly because your ACL slowly develops and gets stronger,” he said. “At times you feel you are better than you actually are so you just have to take it slow, week-by-week, and just increase the things you are doing. I am taking bigger steps each week and I'll definitely be ready soon.”
Winfree reports that he has progressing well in the classroom as well, as he pursues a degree in Sociology. He aims to catch “at least 10 touchdowns” during his junior campaign.
“It has been a roller-coaster but I plan to finish college off well,” he said. “I love it here at Colorado. Coming here is definitely the best decision I have made.”
Additional notes -
*** Outside linebacker Derek McCartney is also coming along with his recovery from a torn ACL, which he suffered a month after Winfree went down.
“There hasn't been a day where they have had a setback so it looks like they are right on track to being able to do stuff this summer and have a good two-and-a-half months to really go before we hit,” Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre said when asked about Winfree and McCartney.
*** MacIntyre was in Tennessee this past weekend to attend a clinic at Carson-Newman University where one of his coaching mentors, Ken Sparks, is in the final stages of a battle with cancer. Sparks enjoyed more than 300 wins, five NAIA national titles and 21 conference championships during his 37 year tenure as the head coach at Carson-Newman.
“Great Christian man and he is probably not going to make it another day or two. He is in a hospice,” MacIntyre said of Sparks. “But the great thing is he brought everybody together. He has been doing that clinic for 30 years, a husband/wife clinic to strengthen marriages.
“We had a lot of great coaches there: Clyde Christensen, the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins, Chan Gailey, Fisher DeBerry, a lot of really neat, neat people. It was uplifting, the celebration of his life, and it was good seeing friends. But it was also a tough situation.”
*** MacIntyre surprised his players with a full-contact period during Monday morning's practice. He said he wants to put as much pressure as possible on them during the final week of spring ball.
“We tried to make it more game like and wanted to see how they would handle it,” MacIntyre said. “We got some good enthusiasm and came out of it unscathed so I thought we had a good day in that aspect of it. And our kickers are kicking it a lot better. The last three times we've put them in live situations, they've kicked really, really well. So that is encouraging to see.”
*** Following the loss of eight starters on defense, MacIntyre praised middle linebacker Rick Gamboa, safety Afolabi Laguda and defensive lineman Leo Jackson for the leadership they have shown on that side of the ball this spring.
“When we get Derek [McCartney] back there full time, he'll be a steady leader in that group, too,” MacIntyre said. “I have been pleased with those guys.”
*** The Buffaloes are scheduled to practice again on Wednesday and Friday, in advance of Saturday's spring game event.