- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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We sat down for a conversation with New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., a former first-round pick (Cleveland Browns, 2004) who grew up around football. His father, of course, is Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, the former San Diego Chargers' great:
How much of an impact has your father had on your career?
Kellen Winslow: A lot, but it's mostly self-driven. I've been wanting to do this since I was 5 years old. It's self-motivated. He used to have to tell me to stop watching football. I used to watch his highlights all the time, the Chargers' highlights. He'd be like, 'Read a book or something, stop watching that.' But I knew what I wanted to do. Ever since I could remember, that's what I've been wanting to do. That's why I work so hard at it. It's expected from me. I want to do a lot more in this game. I don't know how much longer I have, but I want to give it my all until I'm done.
There had to be pressure on you, being the son of Kellen Winslow:
KW: My first year playing in high school, I had to ... there were certain expectations for me, but that was my first year playing. But after that, it was just my motivation. I wanted to be better than him.
You're a cycling enthusiast. Why are you so passionate about cycling? Did you start after your motorcycle crash in 2005?
KW: I do it every day, even Sunday on home games. I have to do it in order to be able to run. It's just what I have to do. In the offseason, I do it because I don't run in the offseason. My (surgically repaired) knee just won't allow me to, so that's all I do. I'm able to still play because of cycling. Yeah, definitely, it's because of the motorcycle accident and the staph infection. I actually started in 2009, and I haven't gone off since. Those three or four years I didn't find cycling, it was a real struggle. It still is a struggle, but it's easier for me to be able to run now because of cycling.
You ever look back at the motorcycle accident and say to yourself, 'What was I thinking?'
KW: Of course. How do I put this? I guess everything happens for a reason. I could say a lot of things, but my career has gone the way it's gone because of my drive. I could've easily stopped playing after the accident immediately. Ninety-nine percent would've quit right there. The doctor told me I'd never play again. That motivated me to get back to what I love. I was 22, in Cleveland, bored. Nobody knew, except me, about the bike. I am who I am because of that. It made me a better man. I'm not the same player, but it made me a smarter player. I had staph infection on top of that, and I had to overcome that also. That can end careers also. It's been tough, man.
On Monday night, you'll be on the same field as Tony Gonzalez, arguably the greatest tight end in history. Is there competition in the tight end fraternity?
KW: I haven't had the career he's had. He's been playing so long. I don't know how he does it. He's got those two Pro Bowl receivers over there. He's got a Pro Bowl running back and he's got a Pro Bowl quarterback. It's tough, man. If I'm trying to match him, it's tough. It's fun, though. It's competition and I love it. (Antonio) Gates, (Jason) Witten, Gonzalez, I try to compete with those guys as much as I can and make the best out of my situation.