Alonzo Winfield: Honesty Goes a Long Way writer Roger A. Olivieri recently sat down with incoming freshman linebacker Alonzo Winfield, whose struggle to get back on the field after a torn ACL in high school made him a stronger man – ready to take on any challenge. Oh, and as a former Tennessee commitment, he's circled USC's late October match up in Knoxville on his schedule. Read inside for more.

There are some names that simply sound like that of an athlete. Some sound like a saxophonist while others a scientist, and so on. Beethoven, for example, doesn't sound like an outside linebacker, nor does Ornette Coleman (Jazz saxophonist). The name Alonzo Winfield though, that's a linebacker name. It just sounds like a linebacker. Who would want to mess with a guy named Alonzo Winfield? Who'd you rather meet in the parking lot after school – a guy named Zo Winfield or Albert Einstein? You get the point.

To Tennessee Head Football Coach Phil Fulmer though, Winfield looked every bit a safety. Although he committed to Tennessee in June of 2006, it didn't feel right. A four year starter on the Varsity at linebacker, he wanted to play linebacker on the next level

From late November into early December he started to visit other schools like North Carolina and South Carolina. That's a bad sign six months after a commitment. When a visit to South Carolina brought a revived interest in linebacker, Winfield jumped on the opportunity "(In June of 2006) I committed to Tennessee, but I de-committed (later)."

Why de-commit from a football power? There had to be something more. Something more than placing what the coaches say before happiness rubbed Zo the wrong way.

"When I was committed to Tennessee, they had a lot (of guys in for limited) spaces. They brought in like six to eight other guys. South Carolina they brought in only two linebackers. They were bringing in people that they really want, and they wanted me to play linebacker. I think that was the biggest reason I chose South Carolina."

Why change positions when you're happy and excel at the same time? "As a freshman, I started for the JV for two weeks, and then we practiced with the Varsity one day and the coach told me to stay out there with them," explains Winfield, "so I've been starting at linebacker on the Varsity since then. Then by my junior year when the JV came up to play, ya' know, then I really noticed (how good I was at) it."

Ironically, Winfield hadn't even liked South Carolina on his first visit. The heat, even to a Winston Salem boy, was too much. That's when mom and dad voiced their opinion. Though they knew Alonzo would ultimately make the decision, he says they felt better about South Carolina.

"When we first went down there," explains Winfield, "there was nothing going on. It was summer, but my mom and my dad really liked the coaches. I didn't like it because it was so hot and everything, but my mom and dad felt like the coaches were being honest. So, my mom and dad were a big part of it."

That wasn't all he liked though. Coach Spurrier and his staff made him feel welcome, "Probably it'd be the coaches. I like the coaching staff and my chances to play seemed like they'd be pretty good. I also liked the environment at South Carolina. Everyone seemed like they were being more honest with me than the other schools."

With the uncomfortable circumstances of de-committing and re-committing behind him, Alonzo was once again a linebacker. He's a linebacker with a vision and a driving force. Aside from his speed and ability to break down the play while it's happening, the 6'0", 205 pound Winfield also has something no coach can teach: active patience. Active patience can be the difference between a drop out and an NFL prospect.

"Hopefully I'll be starting at linebacker (in three years). It would be good if I could play some this year, but it'll still be good if I get redshirted," he explains, "the worst thing that I could do is drop out. As long as I'm there, even if I'm redshirted, that's alright with me. That's good."

Asked if anyone was the driving force in his ability to avoid the normal teenage routine of video games and hanging out, Winfield said, "It's probably my mom. She always pushed me. She came to all my games. Anything I was doing, she was always there. I know she wants me to do good. She wants me to make it whether it's in business or the NFL."

The same hard work that helped get him through a torn ACL in his sophomore year is what he plans on continuing as a Gamecock. His desire to be the "big-play" guy is more than just desire – it's almost a need.

"I make the sure tackles, but I (haven't been) a big play person. I've been playing in the same spot for so long and everyone seemed happy. But I want to make the big plays."

As for the torn ACL, it's in the past as just another obstacle overcome, "The end of my sophomore year I tore my ACL and had to come back from that. It doesn't bother me at all now. (It stayed on my mind) probably the first or second game and then after that I got hit in my knee a couple times and it didn't bother me anymore."

It all worked out in the end though for Winfield, who went on a quest for honesty and opportunity. Though misled initially, he found what he was looking for on an early December official visit to South Carolina, which ultimately led him to switch his pledge to the Gamecocks.

One has to wonder if Alonzo Winfield has Tennessee circled on the schedule. Wonder no more because rather than giving the all-too-familiar answer drenched in political correctness, Winfield answered the only way he knew how – honestly.

After a chuckle, he almost whispered, "Yeah, I'm ready for that game."

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