Gophers all-American safety Antoine Winfield Jr. declares for NFL Draft

Winfield ranked fourth in FBS with seven interceptions in 2019.

Defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. celebrates after a tackle on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. The Gophers beat Buffalo 17 to 7.

Ellen Schmidt

Defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. celebrates after a tackle on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. The Gophers beat Buffalo 17 to 7.

Nick Jungheim

After a prolific redshirt sophomore season, Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. announced on Instagram that he was declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.

In 2019, Winfield played an integral role on Minnesota’s defense, leading the team with 88 total tackles and ranking fourth in FBS with seven interceptions. He became the seventh player in program history to become a unanimous All-American selection.

For his play, Winfield garnered national recognition this season. He was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and was among five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is presented annually to the best defensive player in college football. 

After season-ending injuries limited Winfield to just four games in both 2017 and 2018, he played in all 13 games for Minnesota in 2019, helping the team to their first 11-win season since 1904 while impressing NFL Draft scouts. Pro Football Network currently projects Winfield as a second round pick.

During his four seasons with the Gophers, Winfield established himself as a game changer. Minnesota fans will remember him for recording game-winning interceptions against Fresno State in back-to-back season. He concludes in career in maroon and gold with 177 total tackles, nine interceptions, four sacks and three total touchdowns.

Winfield’s departure creates another hole to fill on the Minnesota defense in 2020. Other significant players from the 2019 team have finished their eligibility, including three defensive linemen in Carter Coughlin, Winston DeLattiboudere and Sam Renner, and two starting linebackers, Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin.

When Winfield does hear his name called in May’s draft and steps onto an NFL field, he will follow in the footsteps of his father, Antoine Winfield Sr., who was an All-Pro safety for the Minnesota Vikings.