As Chase Winovich emerged as a star pass rusher during his final two seasons at Michigan, he also drew attention and notoriety for making bold, brash remarks to the media and on his Instagram account.
For instance, he picked at an old scab with in-state rival Michigan State by referring to the Spartans as “little brother” following the Wolverines’ 21-7 victory last October. He also referred to Ohio State’s 62-39 demolition of Michigan last season as “a mirage,” which didn’t win him in any fans in Columbus — if he had any to begin with.
While such comments made him an extremely popular figure in Ann Arbor, Winovich knows that being outspoken won’t go over well as an NFL rookie. That’s especially true on a team stocked with veteran players and coaches, and an established, 20-year tradition of championship success.
Once Winovich was drafted in the third round this spring (No. 77 overall), the media covering the Patriots surely anticipated him providing some good quotes and sound bites from a locker room not known for colorful comments. But the defensive end also realizes which team he’s joining, one in which players — especially rookies — should let his work do the talking.
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“I’m a rookie. Being vocal, especially in the media, being a blinking light, is not what I aim to be right now,” Winovich told USA Today‘s Jarrett Bell. “My goal is to make the 53-man roster and contribute to this team in a positive way.”
Winovich insists restraining himself is a result of the humility that comes from trying to prove himself in the NFL, not necessarily wanting to avoid causing friction with teammates like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Stephon Gilmore and Dont’a Hightower. It’s about acting like a professional and being respected for his play.
It’s also possible that Winovich already learned from a fellow Michigan Wolverine about the Patriots’ culture and how the players conducted themselves to achieve great success. Brady met Winovich when he returned to Ann Arbor as an honorary captain for a 2016 match-up with Colorado. Three years later, the rookie is making sure to follow the veteran’s example.
“It’s really cool to see how he’s been here all these years,” said Winovich about Brady. “I sat next to him in a team meeting. He was taking vigorous notes, man. He’s a great example of someone who leads by example. He sets the bar.”
Not everyone has been able to reach that bar. But those who have eventually became champions.