Ravens' Winborne living his dream

WESTMINSTER -- Sixteen months after a violent episode endangered his life and his football career, Jamaine Winborne is looking around the Baltimore Ravens' practice field. The first-year cornerback sees Deion Sanders walk past him. He watches Ray Lewis sign autographs. Every day, Winborne gets to work alongside Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister, arguably the top cornerback tandem in the NFL. So, Winborne keeps smiling because his life is good.

Certainly, it's much better than when he was shot in his left leg at a campus party at the University of Virginia in the spring of 2004. A .40 caliber bullet pierced the back of his leg and just missed hitting a major artery before flying out the front of his leg.

If the bullet had hit the artery, Winborne could have died. To this day, Winborne still has numbness in the leg.

"I was real lucky, and it makes me feel blessed," said Winborne, who's vying to make the Ravens' 53-man roster after spending last year on the practice squad. "Whenever I don't feel like practicing, I think about getting shot and how I could have died."

Although Winborne suffered no muscle or nerve damage, he was concerned about whether the episode would damage his reputation.

A three-year starter for the Cavaliers, Winborne had signed with the New York Giants last year and he was worried about what they would think of him.

"A guy had trouble with some of my teammates and I told him to forget about it and go home," Winborne said. "He came back a few hours later, mad, and he shot me in my leg."

Immediately, Winborne said he thought he would never play football again. However, Giants officials investigated the situation and discovered that Winborne had actually been trying to make peace and got caught in the middle of an argument.

"I thought I was done, I thought no team would want anything to do with me even though it wasn't my fault," Winborne said. "Luckily, the Giants stuck with me."

Winborne rebounded from the incident and remained with the Giants until early September when he was released.

A month later, the Ravens added him to their practice squad.

"We feel like he has the ability," said secondary coach Johnnie Lynn, who was unaware of the strife Winborne has gone through to get to the NFL. "That's why we kept him around and are giving him a long look."

Realistic about his chances of making the team despite his strong showing at training camp, Winborne is highly motivated. All he has to do is look around and see four current or former Pro Bowl cornerbacks everyday in Sanders, McAlister, Rolle and Dale Carter.

"It's a dream come true because I watched Deion Sanders growing up," Winborne said. "Now, I'm on the same field with that caliber of athlete. I know I've got to make every little play because they aren't going to keep that many guys.

"There's four Pro Bowlers and then it's me and a few other guys all playing for one final spot. Whatever happens, this is my dream. Like I said, I'm blessed."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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