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Kellen Winslow Biography

NFL Player Bio: Kellen Winslow

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

Kellen Winslow is one of the greatest tight ends of all-time. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Winslow played from 1979 to 1987 with the San Diego Chargers, becoming one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise. Winslow was 6’5” 250 pounds and blessed with great athleticism. He was one of the league’s first giant-sized ball catchers who had agility and speed that belied his gigantic stature.

Winslow attended the University of Missouri. He was from St. Louis, so it was a natural fit. In fact, Winslow didn’t even play football until his final year in high school, but showed enough potential to book a college scholarship at a good school. He would later become a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, the 13th pick overall.

Knee injuries frequently hampered Winslow’s progress and inevitably shortened his career. A knee injury plagued his first season, as he played in only 7 games. But by 1980, he quickly became the top tight end in the game, with an incredible 89 receptions, 1290 yards, and 9 touchdown receptions. At the tender age of 23, he had set the mark for the most receiving yards for a a tight end--a record that would stand over 30 years until 2011.

Picture of Chargers TE Kellen Winslow

There was something a little different about Winslow. There had certainly been excellent tight ends before Winslow came into the league. But none of them had the combination of size, grace, and speed that the legendary Chargers star possessed. While some tight ends have since come into the league that share some of Winslow’s assets, he was really the first of his kind.

Following his record-breaking season in 1980, Winslow returned with another strong season in 1981, catching 88 balls and 10 touchdowns. It was his playoff performance that season, however, that allowed Winslow to stand out above the others. He was always a supremely-talented player, but the heart he showed in an overtime playoff win over Miami was what will forever endear him to Chargers fans and those who love high drama in the NFL. He caught 13 passes in the game known as the Epic in Miami. As if that weren’t enough, he blocked a field goal that would have won the game for Miami late in the 4th quarter. The image of him being helped off the field is forever etched in the memories of Chargers fans. For fans who saw it, it still surely stands out as one of the greatest things ever seen on the football field.

Winslow was a key part of the Air Coryell pass-attack that made the Chargers perhaps the most offensively-entertaining team of the era. A lack of defense, however, plagued the Chargers during these years and they were never able to get past the AFC title game, despite being a perennial playoff contender.

Winslow caught 54 balls for 721 yards in the strike-shortened 9 game season of 1982, before having a big 1983 campaign. He bagged 88 catches for 1172 yards, giving him his 4th Pro Bowl selection. He would make the Pro Bowl for the 5th time in 1987, but after 1983, bad knees started to claim one of the league’s most immense talents.

He retired after the 1987 season at the age of 30. He caught 541 passes for 6741 yards and 45 touchdowns. Looking at Winslow from a purely statistical standpoint, however, leads one to missing the point. He was a revolutionary tight end and all illustrious pass-catching tight ends owe Winslow a debt of gratitude for breaking the mold. As a former coach once said of the Hall of Famer, he was a wide receiver in an offensive lineman’s body. Unlike most tight ends of the time, you couldn’t just let a linebacker cover him, as most defensive backs were over their heads with Winslow. Winslow really opened up the possibilities of what a tight end could do.

Winslow is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He always carried himself with class and dignity and he made a fine role model for young people in San Diego to look up to during his heyday. Winslow’s full scope of honors are too numerous to name, but he is a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team. His son, Kellen Winslow II, played about a decade in the NFL and is still active as of this writing.

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