Running back George Winn, who graduated from UD-Jesuit before playing at Cincinnati, is already on his sixth NFL stop. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Running back George Winn had 60 friends and relatives in the crowd during Family Day at Lions training camp Saturday.
The Southfield native may be stuck on the third-team offense, but with one of his few touches, he ran through linebacker Brandon Hepburn for one of the day’s most impressive plays.
And on Monday, Winn topped that play both in terms of physicality and volume when — in full pads — he trucked rookie safety Jerome Couplin on an open-field run.
“I either had to make a move or put my head down,” Winn said of Monday’s pop. “So I chose to put my head down.”
Winn, who graduated from UD-Jesuit before playing at Cincinnati, is already on his sixth NFL stop. He signed with Houston after going undrafted in 2013, then spent training camp with New England. After being released by the Patriots, he briefly joined the practice squads in Oakland, Pittsburgh and Dallas.
Now in his second season, Winn is glad to be home after signing with the Lions in July.
“It’s a blessing, like it’s a dream come true,” Winn said. “I prayed a lot about it. It’s been a long offseason. I finally got my prayers answered, and I’m here.”
And in Detroit, Winn joins a running back corps that has someone who was once in a similar position. Joique Bell, another Michigan native, was with four different teams before signing with the Lions in 2011 and earning his break in 2012.
“There’s been a lot of people with the same kind of hopping-around path,” Winn said. “They’ve really been comforting helping me know that you could find a home eventually in the NFL.”
Of course, with Bell, Reggie Bush and Lions draft picks Theo Riddick and Mikel Leshoure ahead of him on the depth chart, Winn knows his best way to earn a roster spot is on special teams, which he played at Cincinnati before becoming the Bearcats’ starting running back his senior season.
Those big hits of offense never hurt, though.
“He’s a hard runner, man,” Bush said. “He runs physical, and I love that about him. He runs at his own pace. If you’re not on his pace, then you better get on or you’re going to get run over.”
At 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, Winn doesn’t look like a bowling-ball back, but he showed his knack for physical play by running over the 235-pound Hepburn and 215-pound Couplin.
“Make sure I’m the one hitting and not getting hit,” Winn said of staying safe when lowering the boom.
And while the loud hits are impressive for the fans, coach Jim Caldwell said Winn’s ability to learn the playbook has stood out to him.
“What we’ve seen from George thus far is that he’s a quick study, and that’s what happens oftentimes when you get guys that have been around the league a little bit,” Caldwell said. “They understand how they can adapt to systems pretty well, they quickly can relate it to other things that they’ve experienced in terms of verbiage and are able to function right away.
“But also, you can see, he’s a physical guy as well, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he does.”