Wolverines defensive lineman Chase Winovich on how teammate convinced him to come back for another season. Angelique S. Chengelis
Ann Arbor — Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich was weighing his options late last year, while teammate Rashan Gary was only pushing for one.
Winovich had to determine whether to head to the NFL Draft or return for his final season of eligibility. Gary was clear on what he felt he should do and lobbied. Hard.
“Every day in practice I’m like, ‘Let’s be the best end duo in the country,’ ” Gary said. “I was feeding him little seeds. Of course I was pushing it.”
When Winovich decided to return, Gary was elated.
“He called me and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s become the best end duo in the country,’ ” Gary said. “Shoot, I yelled. I’m like, ‘Let’s get it, let’s go.’ ”
Winovich made the decision with his family. He listened to his teammates, most who early on were puzzled why there was any question — he should, they felt, chase the professional dream — he listened to Gary, but mostly, he listened to himself.
“Rashan is a great leader and he’s a great teammate,” Winovich said after a recent spring practice. “He’s someone that creates an environment you want to be around, and I try to echo that, if not amplify that. I’m happy that he was so, like, embracing. He wanted me to come back, and it’s a great feeling to be wanted as opposed to, ‘Hey, if you leave, we understand.’
“At the beginning, a lot of the guys were pitching the opposite, like this is your chance, man, what are you doing? Why are you coming back? Go make some money. This is your time. But Devin Bush for example was like, ‘You can’t leave us. What do you mean you’re thinking about going?’ It was cool, just little stuff like that I’ll always remember. Just little stuff like that. Everyone had their opinions on what to do, but at the end of the day, I took all those into account, but it was myself and my family’s.”
Wolverines defensive-line coach Greg Mattison on Chase Winovich's development. Angelique S. Chengelis
Winovich will be among the senior leaders this fall and by all accounts has been performing well this spring in practice. He and Gary said they have been pushing each other.
“Sometimes when guys come back, there’s a little bit of a period you go, ‘Welllll,’ ” Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison said. “He didn’t. He came back and from Day 1 he and Rashan have said, ‘Come on, we’re going to get this group going as (well as) they’ve ever gone.’ ”
Mattison hoped Winovich would return for his final season.
“I really believed it was his best interest,” Mattison said. “In my heart, I believed that. But you can’t tell a young man what to do. He’s a grown man now. I had hoped he would make the right decision, because I really do believe it is the right decision. I think if he continues to work like he is right now and produce like he did last year, then he will really (prove) himself.”
Winovich was awarded the team’s “Blue Collar Award” last season. He was All-Big Ten first team voted by the media and second team by the coaches.
But Mattison felt Winovich could achieve more by returning to Michigan.
“I thought he had some more room to grow to become better,” he said. “I think a lot of the great things he did last year were toughness and effort, and I think when you go to the next level, everybody has that. I think the thing he is really trying to work on now is better pass-rush technique with that toughness and effort. The other thing, it’s great for him to be a leader. It’s great for him and Rashan to say, ‘OK, these are our guys now.’ ”
Winovich attended Michigan’s Pro Day last month and got a feel for what NFL scouts want to see and what he’ll be going through next year.
Hard work, he says, is his “mentality.”
He has taken that approach during his career and it has helped guide him to success and recognition, not only among his teammates but on campus, as well.
“It’s just so funny to see on campus, especially when I have my hair down, I walk like a block and I hear people going, ‘That’s Chase Winovich,’ ” Winovich said. “That’s just funny to me because I don’t really think about it but they act like I’m somebody cool. I’m just like, ‘I’m just Chase.’
“It’s fun. It’s a cool experience to be in, not even just for a personal standpoint the fact I’m in a position to showcase — and people are watching — what my abilities are and all these years of hard work. We’re in a position as a team to showcase that and showcase why we bought into Michigan. I’m in a great opportunity to validate my decision to come to Michigan in the first place. Everything is looking up from here. I’m liking the spot I’m in, and I’m going to come in and work like I’m not in any spot.”
As for a nickname for the Winovich-Gary duo as they try to become the best defensive ends in the country, they will leave it up to someone else. Bush, who will be a junior linebacker, has his idea.
“Thing 1, Thing 2,” Bush said. “Thing 1 is Chase.”