Winovich 'followed heart' back to UM for final season

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Chase Winovich recorded 79 tackles, including 18 for loss and eight sacks, for Michigan this past season.

Ann Arbor — At times while talking to media before the Outback Bowl, Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich spoke about the possibility he might leave for the NFL and it was as though he was sounding out his pros and cons list.

He discussed the violent nature of the game and making a run at a professional career now while healthy, but then, he was drawn to Michigan and finishing what he started.

Winovich ultimately decided to return to play his fifth season for the Wolverines.

He was on hand Thursday at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital to present a check of more than $211,000 to the ChadTough Foundation for DIPG pediatric cancer research. Winovich spearheaded a charity drive that began with asking for donations for $15,000  his jersey number is 15  and he would dye his hair orange for the bowl game in honor of Chad Carr, who died at age five from DIPG. Several teammates and defensive coordinator Don Brown also took part in an effort to raise money. Carr was the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and All-American Tom Curtis.

Winovich’s long hair is back to blonde, and he is also is preparing to take part in next month's ChadTough "Dancing with the Stars" to raise money for the ChadTough Foundation. He also is participating in offseason conditioning with his teammates.

“Honestly, it got to the point I was going to flip a coin, because people told me you can’t make a wrong decision,” Winovich said of his debate to stay at Michigan or go pro. “And that’s what makes tough decisions tough is that it wasn’t necessarily one was worse than the other.

“Both are just so good, and you get caught up in dollar signs and all that stuff. I didn’t start playing football for the money. I don’t really need the money at this point in my life. I’m lucky in that sense. It didn’t make sense for me to risk leaving and losing the opportunity to come back to Michigan.”

Winovich (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) made a name for himself this past season while playing alongside Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary. He had 79 tackles, including 18 for loss and eight sacks.

Winovich went through NFL draft evaluation and said the consensus was he could go as high as the second round to the fourth.

A day after the bowl game, his decision crystallized.

“I hadn’t booked a flight back to anywhere, to (his hometown) Pittsburgh or anything,” Winovich said. “It was probably Tuesday, we were driving around. I was with my brother in law, and he just asked me what I was thinking about doing.

“I told him my brain says to take the opportunity. You’re healthy, it’s a violent game and you’re on the defensive line. Your stock is where you said at the beginning of the season you would have left. But my heart wouldn’t let me go. The same thing that got me to Michigan in the first place, which worked out great. I kinda used that same process in determining what I wanted to do  followed my heart.”

Offensive lineman Grant Newsome, who also took part in Winovich’s fundraiser and also dyed his hair orange, is trying to work his way back to the field. He hasn’t played since a gruesome knee injury during the 2016 season. He said Winovich returning adds to Michigan’s leadership entering the season.

“Great for the team, great for the defensive line, obviously great for the offensive line,” Newsome said. “Just to have him back and have that veteran presence and not be able to hopefully have teams triple-team Rashan like they would like to do I’m sure.”

Winovich said he returned because there’s so much to do as a team. The Wolverines finished 8-5 last season in Jim Harbaugh’s third season. They have yet to beat Ohio State and are 1-2 against Michigan State.

“I’m not saying we’re going to do this or this is a guarantee by any means, but win the games that everybody knows we gotta win,” Winovich said. “I don’t think I have to spell that out.”

Now that he’s made a decision, Winovich is eager to earn those elusive wins.

“I kept looking for a reason to come back,” he said. “Everybody it seemed like was presenting reasons to me why I should leave, including every agent that I talked to, which is their job. But I couldn’t do that. I love Michigan too much.

"It’s not necessarily about me or what I want to accomplish, but Michigan has done so much for me it’s my honor to come back and represent the maize and blue one more year.”