2014 recruit: Markel Winters

James Rickards (Fla.) defensive end Markel Winters has narrowed his top schools down to four and East Carolina made the cut. Inside ECU Sports spoke with him about his offer from the Pirates.

Markel Winters is a talented defensive end with the versatility to play the outside linebacker position as well. His junior season netted him multiple offers and he has since narrowed his list down to four schools.

"My top schools are Memphis, Northern Illinois, Florida Atlantic and ECU," the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Winters said. "Every other school is still on the radar, because you never know what could happen. ECU is cool right now I haven't had time to do too much research and get a feel for them, but I like what I saw of the facilities."

James Rickards High School is defensive coordinator Rick Smith's alma mater. It's only fitting he be the one to extend an offer to Winters – and he did exactly that.

"Rick Smith offered me," Winters said. "He came down here and visited the school more than once and came out to practice and our jamboree. He told me he was offering me right before the jamboree. We have a connection, he went to James Rickards so that's a big deal. It's nice to be recruited by a person who walked the same path and can relate with me."

Before his offer from ECU, Winters didn't know much about the school. He's done some research and learned about the football program and the conference, but still plans on looking into academics.

Winters was supposed to camp at ECU this summer with his team, but an injury at practice prevented him from attending. He plans to make it to ECU soon.

"I hit my head and had to get staples," he said. "It's all good now and I'm fully recovered. It happened at practice when we were running with parachutes; the metal piece broke and hit me. I am trying to get out to ECU before summer is over, or I'll take an official visit there in the fall."

As a junior Winters recorded 67 tackles with five sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles. His head coach (Quintin Lewis) says he is one of the hardest workers on the Rickards team and one of his best leaders.

"To be the best I can be I have to work hard," Winters said. "Now that I'm a senior I know I have to be a leader so the players following me can be better than I am."

As far as his plans for the rest of summer, Winters will keep working out to get bigger and faster for the fall. He attended the Big Man Camp at the University of South Florida this weekend (July 20/21), but doesn't know what his coach has in store for the rest of summer.

Multiple schools have shown interest in Winters at both defensive end and linebacker.

"A lot of schools may want me at outside linebacker," he said. "They want me to be a stud linebacker to make plays on the field. ECU is flexible with it and has shown interest at linebacker and defensive end."

Winters thought of committing recently, but never ended up going through with it. Instead he changed his mind and is looking to commit sometime during his senior year.

"I thought about making my decision, but I am going to wait it out until at least the end of season," he said. "That way I can see what else I get as far as offers, but then again I could change my mind. Most likely I'll wait until a couple weeks after the season. I won't early enroll, I want to enjoy these high school years because you don't get them back."

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