For the past three years, Cincinnati running back George Winn has worked and patiently waited for his chance in the spotlight.
Winn got that shot this season. The way he performed will put a big target on his back as the Bearcats (9-3) take on Duke (6-6) in Thursday nights Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.
Winn, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound redshirt senior, is the feature back in Cincinnatis spread offense, rushing for 1,204 yards (100.3 yards per game) and 12 touchdowns. He led the Big East in rushing until the final week of the season, when he was passed by Temples Montel Harris (105.4 ypg).
Those numbers earned Winn second-team All-Big East honors, and were a factor in the Bearcats playing in a bowl game for the fourth time in the last five years.
This has been a moment Ive been looking forward to making plays and being a leader, Winn said.
If anyone is doubting themselves or their abilities coming out of high school and going to college, this just shows that if you keep at it, stick with it, youll eventually see the field.
Winn, a 3,000-yard career rusher in high school at Southfield (Mich.) University of Detroit Jesuit, saw little action after redshirting his freshman year at Cincinnati. In the previous three seasons, hed rushed for 377 yards and two touchdowns on 78 carries.
I was prepared for that, Winn said. I had to be patient and wait my turn. I couldnt get down on myself; I had to continue to work on getting bigger, stronger and faster so that when I got my opportunity, Id be ready to play.
The wait was understandable, considering who Winn was behind on the depth chart Isaiah Pool, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a league-best 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011. That earned him the Big Easts offensive player of the year award before being picked by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Some big shoes to fill, and there were some who doubted Winn was ready to fill them.
Not Winn, though, and his first game as a Bearcats starter 95 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries against Pittsburgh silenced most of the doubters. He followed that with 24 carries, 147 yards against Delaware State.
Winn went on to have four more 100-yard games, including a career-best 165 yards (on 30 carries) and three touchdowns against Syracuse.