Juwann Winfree’s first NFL game didn’t exactly get off to a great start. It ended, however, in the best way possible. A sixth-round pick by the Denver Broncos in April’s NFL Draft, Winfree was targeted on their first drive of Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game. Facing third down and seven, Broncos quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a pass over the middle which Winfree dropped. The pass was a touch high in this scribe’s opinion, but nonetheless, it should’ve been caught. Call it first game jitters.
Winfree received only one more target the rest of the game and certainly made the most of it. Trailing 10-7 with 1:33 left in the fourth quarter, the Broncos faced a fourth and 14 from the Atlanta Falcons 15-yard line. Quarterback Brett Rypien dropped back and lofted one into the end zone for Winfree. Falcons cornerback Ryan Neal and Winfree went up for the ball, which was deflected, and then caught by Winfree for (what would be) the game-winning touchdown.
“Winfree had so many injuries at college, he went all the way back to the sixth round, but they [the Broncos] think he could really be a special player. Pretty good way to start.” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said. Here’s a great angle of Winfree’s game-winning grab courtesy of Fox 31 Denver’s Sports Director Nick Griffith:
My view of the Juwann Winfree TD catch!! Nice concentration by the rookie pic.twitter.com/mrp3EjFhiQ— Nick Griffith (@NickGriffithTV) August 2, 2019
Originally recruited by the Maryland Terrapins, Winfree transferred to Colorado via Coffeyville Community College (Coffeyville, Kan.). In three seasons in Boulder, he played in 15 games and had 49 receptions for 649 yards and four touchdowns; those numbers were cut short as he tore his ACL his first year, recovered from that for much of his second, then in his senior year, he suffered an ankle injury on a cheap shot out of bounds against Nebraska that lingered for the rest of the season. Now healthy, Juwann can show the potential he has always had.
Former Buffaloes standout sophomores Phillip Lindsay of the Broncos and Isaiah Oliver of the Falcons did not play in Thursday night’s game.