Winslow Marches to His Own Beat

The words still come out of his mouth with an abundance of confidence. It's easy to pick up the arrogance in his voice - even miles away on a cell phone - as he makes his way through a busy highway in Cleveland. He answers every question with little doubt.

There is not a single pause between sentences, just more samples of why he is quickly becoming a marked man - or kid - before ever stepping on a professional football field.

Kellen Winslow, Jr. isn't backing down an inch.

"Why should I take anything back? I know I can perform at the highest level of professional football and can't wait to prove it to everybody," says Winslow, who as of the weekend had not reached a contract agreement with the Browns.

"A lot of people have their opinions of me and I know most of them aren't very good. But I'm just a guy who believes in his abilities as a football player, period. There's nothing wrong with that, right? I don't care what you say you need to be confident going in."

He's right. It's alright to walk with your head held high and a little strut in your step, no matter who you are and what you do to put food on the table. But it's hardly a surprise coming from the former University of Miami All-American tight end.

Still an NFL virgin, Winslow, the sixth overall selection in the draft, is just being himself even if it sours his already damaged reputation in a locker room filled with old pros (when he gets there).

Winslow, taken one spot after former teammate Sean Taylor, has elected to skip out on the start of training camp with the Browns as his agents Kevin and Carl Potson continue their attempt to work out a contract that would surpass $40 million.

Good or bad, Winslow is reportedly looking for a deal that would make him the league's highest paid tight end without ever playing a down. He is outspoken, arrogant, confident, complex, selfish and unpredictable. He can fill a reporter's notebook one day and wave off everybody the next.

And he doesn't make any apologies.

"I'm my own person," says Winslow. "I don't have to go about life fulfilling other people's wishes. I want to do things for myself, not because some other person wants me to."

There in part is why many have already labeled the son of the Hall of Fame tight end by the same name a problem child. Nobody will go on the record in Coral Gables, but there were more than a few coaches that were glad to see Winslow go. There were the repeated outbursts out of view, the unsportsmanlike penalties and famed 'I'm a soldier' tirade after a loss to Tennessee last November.

"I admit that I could have handled some of that stuff differently, but I've always done everything with passion. And that's how I have and will always play the game," says Winslow. "'I've lost sleep at night just thinking about being the absolute best player out there. It's something I've always wanted."

The desire to be the best consumes him. It was there even before he became one of the most-highly regarded prep players in the country out of Scripps Ranch in San Diego. It was there way before he became a star at the University of Miami, setting a school-record for most career-receptions (117) by a tight end. It was there before the Browns took him in the draft.

His father aside Winslow was born for the game. Not only is he reckless in the weight room, where he is known to lift until the pain is unbearable, but he plays that way on the field, blocking two defenders on one play and hurdling a couple more a few minutes later.

Winslow doesn't want to be mentioned in the same breath with some of the premier players at his position like Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey and Todd Heap. He wants to be better. He wants to be at the front of the line.

Winslow may have the typical attitude of a pro athlete who showers in money and adulation. But it's not about any of that. Yes, he's on the verge of adding some more jingle to his bank account, but it's not about the money with him. He wants to be the best - in the worst way.

"It's what I've worked for my whole life," Winslow says.

It shouldn't come as a shock that some of Winslow's ex-UM mates could be heard cheering his exit when he decided to forgo his senior season and opt for the NFL. But Winslow doesn't seem to care.

"A lot of them won't be playing football too much longer," he says. "Do you think I'll be around in a year or two?"

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