Thomas Jefferson grad Chase Winovich: ‘Would be great’ to play for Steelers
Like any college student preparing for life in the real world, Chase Winovich appreciates a good deal when he is presented with one.
Winovich, an edge rusher prospect in this year’s NFL Draft class, sees one tangible benefit if he were to be selected by his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers:
Free room and board.
“I’ll just stay at home,” Winovich said. “My mom will make me breakfast every morning.”
Winovich would like nothing more to make the daily commute from his family’s home in Jefferson Hills to the South Side’s UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“That would be great,” Winovich said Saturday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “That would be really special. I know my parents are pulling for it.”
Winovich, a standout at Thomas Jefferson before his five-year stay in Michigan, has some attributes the Steelers could find enticing in the April draft. The Steelers would like to add depth at outside linebacker behind starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Winovich, who carried a second- or third-round grade heading into the combine, could fit the bill.
Although Winovich mostly played with his hand on the ground in Michigan’s 4-3 alignment, he is confident he can play in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. What he lacks, however, is experience dropping into coverage. He said he hasn’t been tasked with doing it since he played some safety at Thomas Jefferson.
Winovich said he asked to play in space at Michigan but was rebuffed by defensive coordinator Don Brown.
“He came to me and said, ‘I would be pretty stupid to take one of the best pass rushers in America and throw him in the flat,’ ” Winovich recalled. “So that’s something I’m going to need to work on. That experience only comes with repetition.”
Winovich, whose measurables checked in at 6-foot-3, 256 pounds, had a strong showing Sunday at the combine. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, the fourth-fastest time among all defensive linemen and third among edge rushers. His time in the three-cone drill was second best among edge rushers, and he had the best time at his position in the short shuttle.
“Whenever I leave the combine, I hope I can dispel some of the perception I can’t drop, any limits people put on me, which in my mind they’ve always done,” Winovich said. “Ultimately, it’s about yourself. I came here to the combine to win. It’s not about beating other people. It’s about beating the expectations you set for yourself.”
Winovich takes pride in being one of the few Thomas Jefferson players in the Bill Cherpak era to be invited to the combine. Lucas Nix attended in 2012. Tyler Reed and Dom DeCicco played in the NFL but did not train in Indianapolis.
“The kids that went to TJ will be able to see that I went to the combine and the experience that I’ve gotten, I can be a resource for them,” Winovich said. “It’s something I take note of, I’m proud of.”
Winovich set his foundation at Michigan where he was a four-year letterman and semifinalist for the Bednarik Award last season. He finished his career with 185 tackles (44.5 for loss), 18 sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in 45 games.
In his redshirt senior year, Winovich returned from a thumb injury he suffered against Ohio State and played against Florida in the Peach Bowl, putting off surgery until all of his post-combine workouts are complete.
He hopes his toughness — and not just the long flowing blond locks that stick out beneath his helmet — catches the fancy of NFL talent evaluators. He has already endeared himself to his Michigan brethren.
“That’s one of the craziest players I ever played with,” said linebacker Devin Bush, a first-round possibility. “He brought energy, though. Chase is going to give 110 percent each and every down and each and every game. That’s one guy you can rely on in any situation.”
According to Winovich, his playing style was validated by one NFL coach, whom he has refused to name. He said the coach would ask prospects whether they played hard every play. When the player instinctively would say yes, the coach would produce a play on video that suggested otherwise.
“He told me he couldn’t find one of those (with me), though he tried,” Winovich said. “I take that as a pretty big compliment. I pair that with some of the explosiveness and the other aspects, I think that’s going to be a solid prospect.”
One he thinks would look good in a black-and-gold uniform. The rest of the Winovich family probably would agree.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .