Winslow speaks to Baron Club

BARON CLUB AWARDS — The annual Baron Club Awards dinner was held Saturday at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, featuring Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr. as the guest speaker. Participating were, from left, ESPN sports anchor John Buccigross, master of ceremonies; Jeff and Debbie Copeland, parents of posthumous honoree Rob Copeland; Winslow; attorney Mike G. Simon, honoree; and Mel Coleman, honoree. Derek Wolfe also was an honoree. -- Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr. said he urges young people to follow their passion, whether it be athletics, the school band or drama club, but make sure they mix in other life experiences to become a well-rounded individual.

Winslow was the guest speaker Saturday at the annual Baron Club Awards at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The honorees included local basketball coach Mel Coleman, NFL player agent Michael Simon and Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, a Beaver Local High School graduate. Rob Copeland, former Barons and Steubenville Catholic Central track and field coach, received a posthumous award. He was head track and field coach at Franciscan in 2014. Copeland led Steubenville Catholic Central to a Division III state championship in 2011, four OVAC girls track and field championships and one boys OVAC championship. He died Nov. 25, 2015.

Winslow said he tried out for high school football as a sophomore but he thought the other players were crazy for practicing in the hot St. Louis temperatures. He said he survived two practices before quitting. The school’s football coaches, who were also his gym teachers, approached him in his senior year, recognized his athletic talent and asked him to play as a tight end.

He went on to the University of Missouri, where he was named an All-American at tight end in 1978.

Winslow was working during high school for United Parcel Service and was a member of the Teamsters. He also was a member of the chess club.

Winslow was a first-round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers in 1979. He played for the Chargers from 1979-87 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, reinventing the position. Selected five times to the Pro Bowl, he recorded 541 career catches, 6,741 yards, and 45 TDs in 109 games.Winslow earned a juris doctorate from the University of San Diego following his NFL career.

Winslow looked at football as a chess board. He said he thought of himself as a knight on the chess board.

“My job was to control the center of the field as a tight end,” he said.

Football at the time was based on the running game. He caught short passes across the middle, forcing the defense to creep up.

Winslow credited Charger coach Don Coryell for designing the offense that led to his career statistics.

“That is why he belongs in the Hall of Fame because of the adjustments he made. It changed the whole game of football. Other coaches could have done the same thing,” he said.

When asked what it is like to be credited with changing the game of pro football, he said, “It is nice to hear, but it is not the truth. If I had not played for San Diego, with those players and coaches, I would not be wearing this (Hall of Fame) jacket. I was surrounded by great talent in high school, college and the pros.”

Winslow said he believes his greatest accomplishments on the field aren’t logged on stat sheets. He said it was picking up a blitz or downing the ball near the goal line for the punt team.

Winslow is probably best known for a 1982 playoff game against the Miami Dolphins, where he hauled in a playoff record 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. He blocked a field goal with seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

He is assistant to the president of community relations at Madonna University in Livonia, Mich.

Winslow said he tells young people to follow their passion but also include other life experiences.

“If your passion is athletics, do something outside the norm. Combine your passion with well-rounded experiences. Without it, you won’t grow as much. No matter what passion you have, you have to take care of everything else. You need to take advantage of experiences. Get out of the dorm, volunteer or go to campus events,” he said.

A native of Wheeling, Coleman became the boys basketball coach at Wintersville High School in 1979. Over the next 10 years, he won three Ohio Valley Athletic Conference titles, eventually moving to an associate coaching position at Norfolk State University, where he helped guide the Spartans to a Division II Elite Eight appearance.

“It is great honor (to be recognized by the Baron Club), especially when you look at the people who were named in the past. It is humbling for me to be in that category. Anytime in life you can be in that category, it is wonderful,” Coleman said.

Jeff and Debbie Copeland accepted the Baron Club honor on behalf of their son, Rob.

“We are honored. Rob loved Catholic Central and the Franciscan University. He was a born coach and teacher,” his father said.

Debbie Copeland said her son would have shied away from the award. “He never liked the spotlight.”

Simon, a Weirton attorney, is an NFLPA certified contractual advisor with Vantage Management Group, which currently represents a number of NFL stars, including Rashad Jennings and Travis Kelce. He also represents Wolfe, who was unable to attend Saturday’s event.

“It means a lot to be recognized here in the Ohio Valley. It is very special,” Simon said.

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