Chase Winovich’s journey to the NFL was long and full of twists and turns — and ended Friday night, when the Michigan defensive end was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round, 77th overall, in the 2019 NFL draft.
He’s the third Wolverine drafted this year, behind fellow defenders Devin Bush (10th overall) and Rashan Gary (12th overall).
Winovich, a 6-foot-3, 256-pound defensive end, was commonly projected as a second-round pick leading into the draft after a stellar senior season with the Wolverines this fall. He improved his draft stock this winter after participating at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.59 second 40-yard dash and put up a 4.11 second shuttle time. At the next level, Winovich projects as a potential stand-up outside linebacker who can rush the passer. Few could have predicted this several years ago, when Winovich was a converted tight end who struggled to earn playing time on special teams, let alone make the depth chart.
Winovich, a former 4-star recruit from Thomas Jefferson High School in Clairton, Pennsylvania, signed with Michigan in 2014 as part of former coach Brady Hoke’s final recruiting class. In his first year on campus, Winovich struggled to keep weight; in an interview with ESPN this past fall, he recalled he was so light by the end of his freshman year that he nearly weighed less than the minimum required to participate in a team workout.
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Winovich’s second year on campus was hardly more successful. At the request of the new coaching staff, Winovich switched to tight end and spent most of his time on the scout team. He found a sliver of playing time on special teams later that season, before seeing several snaps at tight end in Michigan’s 41-7 blowout victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl.That offseason, Winovich once again switched positions, this time finding a permanent home at defensive end. He was a rotational player during the 2016 season, tallying 32 tackles (8 for loss) and 5.5 sacks despite playing limited snaps. As a redshirt junior in 2017, he took over the starting role and was named to the All-Big Ten team while recording 73 tackles (19 for loss) and 8.5 sacks.
Following his fourth year at Michigan, Winovich chose to return for a fifth year over going pro. In his final season, he was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten nominee and tallied 59 tackles (15.5 for loss) and 5.0 sacks while battling injuries toward the end of the year.
While Winovich was at times a dominant player whose production the past two seasons shot him up Michigan’s record books, he may be just as well known for his conduct off the field. Winovich became instantly recognizable due to his shoulder-length blonde hair; he dyed his hair orange in 2018 for a fundraiser for the ChadTough Foundation, helping raise $211,246.
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Winovich was also an outspoken player who coined phrases such as “revenge tour,” which described Michigan’s approach to a three-game stretch this past season against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State — all teams that beat the Wolverines in 2017. And after Michigan beat the Spartans this past October, Winovich called Michigan State “little brother.”
Combine everything that made Winovich who he is — the confidence, bluntness, motor, all of it — and you have one of the more recognizable players of the Jim Harbaugh era. Not bad for a former scout team tight end.
“I love Michigan, the school, so much,” Winovich told reporters in December. “It’s literally the first thing that I have loved outside of my family.”