Winston Has Pac-10 Aspirations

With his speed, mean streak and low center of gravity, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West LB John Winston was able to get a good grasp of ball carriers and wrestle them down at Cameron Worrell's Passing Down Skills Camp last weekend. The nose he had for the football, as well as his aggressive play, earned him the Defensive MVP award at the football camp held at Buchanan High School in Clovis…

John Winston (5-11, 185) showed he was the better player when making contact with anyone who came across him, regardless if it was a linemen or running back.

His lower body leverage and aggressive attitude enabled him to seem unblockable and punish anyone with the football. This is because the junior linebacker has a wrestling background, which dates back to a time when he was in elementary school.

"I've been wrestling since 4th grade," Winston said. "It helps with my tackling and how you shoot through double teams."

Winston showed off his wrestling skills when he strapped on the pads and gained complete control of the ball carriers during tackling drills at the camp. There were loud popping noises when he made contact with running backs, which was likely heard throughout the Buchanan High School campus.

Winston's defensive play not only made him the top defender overall, but it also made him one of the most feared players on the Buchanan practice field during the camp.

Not only did he learn wrestling techniques that translates to the football field, Winston also learned about how to be a top defensive player at a high school known for producing quality defenders.

"It's a big defensive school (Clovis West)," Winston said. "We have some shoes to fill after Travis Brown and Anthony Elliot left. So we're just going hard."

Current and former professional football players at the two-day camp were teaching Winston some more football skills. Oakland Raiders linebacker Sam Williams was working mostly with Winston and the rest of the linebackers.

"It was a good vibe," Winston said. "They taught us a lot and they know what they are talking about."

Even when he wasn't surrounded by NFL players this past weekend, Winston likes watching and emulating a San Francisco 49ers linebacker known to be one of the best at what he does.

"[I like] Patrick Willis," Winston said. "His aggression, the way he comes out to play, his smartness, his speed, everything."

Even though he's going to be a junior, he has received some interest from a few schools through letters sent to him. "I got some letters form USC, UNLV, and Utah, but no offers," Winston said.

He has expressed his most interest in playing in the Pac-10 when his prep career is over.

"Yes. Its my life, its what I work for, to go to the next level," Winston said. "I like Oregon, then Arizona State and Arizona are all an interest of mine. I like the competition level of the Pac-10. I love the defensive play on all the levels of the Pac-10."

Winston believes that a great camp and a productive off-season will help on the football field for the Golden Eagles.

"I feel that after working hard in the off-season, its paid off," Winston said. "I lifted, ran, ate right, everything."

Winston however will focus more on the football field and skip out on going to the mat for this upcoming year. "I was going to wrestle this year but I decided to take it off, put some weight on, and get ready for this year," he said.

He will especially be needed on a team who is going through yet another coaching change.

Head coach Gary Kinne left Clovis West last week to accept the same position at Sherman High School in Texas. Kinne is the sixth coaching change in the last ten years on the Clovis West campus. He spent just one season with the Golden Eagles, which was a 10-3 campaign and winning the Central Section championship.

The move was a shock to the Central Valley, especially the Clovis West football program.

"It hurts, but we're a team," Winston said. "We'll stay together as a team. It doesn't really matter who the coach will be, the players will put it in on the field. I think our team will rally up and we'll start it off right."

Winston believes starting up fast will be necessary, considering the first three teams they will lock up with for 2009.

"Our first three games are against [Anaheim] Servite, [Corona] Centennial and [Bakersfield] Liberty," Winston said. "So I think we'll be alright, rally up and handle our business."

He will not only look to get the Golden Eagles to handle their business, the wrestler will look to help pin down adversity with his team.

"We just need to stay together as a team and keep going and not really let all the adversity split us apart" Winston said. "Everybody has to take on a leadership role and keep their minds straight."

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