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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

2022 ATH Kevin Winston Jr. Building Strong Relationships at Notre Dame

March 8, 2021

2022 DeMatha Catholic (Md.) athlete Kevin Winston‍ has been itching to play football for over a year and he’ll finally get to do so this month. 

The spring season will be shortened to five games and the ISD four-star prospect has remained focus on improving himself over the last year. 

"I've been focused on not letting myself slack off,” Winston told ISD. “A lot of guys have gotten into other things, or the time off has got to them. I've been keeping my focus on the areas I wasn't that good at last year. I've been trying to make those my strengths.

"It's the small things like wasted steps as a defensive back. It's the little things that separate you and I've been working on those." 

On the recruiting trail, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder picked up an offer from Notre Dame in late January and the Irish have made quite the impression. Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and safeties coach Chris O’Leary have made Winston a priority and a strong relationship has started to form. 

"I talk with Coach O'Leary and Coach Freeman almost every other day, if not every day,” said Winston. “We talk often. I text them and talk to them on the phone, so we keep in contact." 

Freeman’s message has resonated with the Dematha star over the last few weeks. Winston knows Freeman has been in his shoes and has taken his advice to heart. 

"His big thing is to look at the bigger picture,” explained Winston. “He always tells me that I'm not making a four-year decision, but a 40-year decision and Notre Dame will set me up for life. He wants me to make the right decision for life and not just college." 

"You have to take his word because he's been through it and knows what he's talking about. Taking his word is a lot more reliable than some others." 

Winston has also developed a unique relationship with O’Leary as the two seem to have a natural connection. 

“He's a really cool coach,” stated Winston. “He's down to earth. He'll call me up and ask me how my girlfriend is and make jokes. I can be myself around Coach O'Leary and not force a conversation with him."

The Maryland native has seen his recruitment change over time as most schools view him as a future defensive back. Winston initially had offers at running back, but he’s more than fine playing in the secondary at the next level. 

“It's a mixture, but most see me as a safety,” Winston said. “Penn State and Maryland see me as an athlete. Maryland originally offered me as a running back. A lot of coaches like that I play both sides and do well." 

Winston’s next step will be to narrow down his recruitment, but that won’t happen for a few weeks as he wants to make sure his season goes as planned. 

"I'm not sure about visits, but I'm focused on my season and putting out some good film,” Winston stated. “Without the film, I won't have any offers, so I want to make sure I put good stuff out there. It's been a while and coaches want to see where I've gotten better. After that, I'll release my top schools and then I'll make a decision soon after that." 

When it comes to what he’s looking for in a program, Winston isn’t overly focused on early playing time as he knows he’ll need to compete at his future school. Winston is focused on learning about the academics and culture at the schools that have offered him. 

"I'm going to consider all that stuff,” said Winston. “Playing time isn't one of the big ones - I'm a competitor. I've competed my whole life for my spot. I came to DeMatha with a running back next to me and I fought through it and ended up earning a spot. On defense, I had to fight for a spot. 

"I'd say academics for sure. You're not going to have football for the rest of your life, so I want to make sure I set myself up in a good position when I hang the cleats up. I want to make sure I can go out into the real world and be on my feet. 

"I just want a place that will bring me in like a family where I can be myself and everyone accepts me for who I am. I want guys to be my brothers.” 

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