Brian Winters has been a perfect fit for the humble town of Cortland, N.Y. As was to be expected from the rookie guard hailing from Hudson, Ohio — population 22,000 and change — he said that Cortland "feels like my hometown."
Winters is trying to find comfort in other areas as well, namely the offensive line, where he is seeking to be tucked in between Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson at left guard at some point after rotating with veteran Stephen Peterman at the position over the first week of training camp (before Peterman banged up his shoulder). Winters joins an offensive line with 33 years' experience under its collective belt and has had to make the switch from his natural position as a tackle to the guard position.
Like all rookies, Winters has gone through his fair share of growing pains but has looked to first-year Jet and fellow guard Willie Colon whenever questions arise during camp.
"It's a great opportunity, I'm learning from a great group of guys in front of me, Steve [Peterman] and Willie have taught me a lot. I've really leaned on Willie to help me with everything," Winters said. "He was in the same situation when he was my age so he understands what I'm going through."
The ability to depend on his fellow lineman has been imperative to Winters' adjustment at a new position. While enrolled at Kent State, he started all 50 games during four years at the university, all of them as a tackle. At the tackle position "you're more on an island," Winters explains, while playing guard requires "more head-up stuff — you need to be a lot quicker off the ball." Fortunately he has found refuge in the knowledge that his veteran linemates have bestowed on him.
"Mostly footwork and adjustment on blocks," Winters said about that imparted wisdom. "I lean on Willie and Nick for that game experience. It's little things that I need to tweak and work on and I know I can lean on them for that."
Winters has certainly made an impression on his veteran counterparts, particularly Colon, who admitted that he sees a lot of himself in the young lineman.
"I love Winters to death. He reminds me of a young Willie Colon. He's scrappy, doesn't know his elbow from his tail but he goes out there and fights. That's how I was when I was younger. I didn't know anything. I just wanted to go out and play football," Colon said. "He wakes up the little kid in me because he's wide-eyed and he likes to hit. He has a lot of potential and I know he's going to get better and be a ballplayer for us."
Winters hopes he can follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Colon, a guy who played seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won a Super Bowl after the 2008 season. Winters seems to agree with the comparison.
"I do, I definitely do. Every time I work with him he says that, which I take as a compliment," he said. "To learn from him is a great thing, I watched him play when I was growing up and I loved the way he played. Our styles are very similar."
Brian Winters and the Jets will continue their push toward the regular season as they get ready to play in their annual Green & White Scrimmage Saturday at 6 p.m. in Cortland Stadium. He is chomping at the bit to hit the field. "I'm definitely excited. We've all had these live periods, sometimes not so live, nobody really knows what it is," he said. "But now that the scrimmage is here, it's go time."