Sports

Team for the Ages — Kellen Winslow Sr.

The first dominant receiving TE of his kind, Winslow was instrumental in making Chargers' 'Air Coryell' attack soar

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 14:  Tight end Kellen Winslow #80 of the San Diego Chargers poses for his team headshot during training camp on July 14, 1984 at University of California at San Diego in San Diego, California. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 14: Tight end Kellen Winslow #80 of the San Diego Chargers poses for his team headshot during training camp on July 14, 1984 at University of California at San Diego in San Diego, California. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

Over the offseason, thousands of fans voted in our “Team For the Ages” contest to construct the best imaginable 50-man roster from the NFL’s modern era, which began in 1967. The votes have been counted, and we’re unveiling one player each weekday between now and the kickoff of the 2018 NFL season.

Kellen Winslow Sr., TE

Legacy one-liner

The NFL’s first pure receiving tight end, Winslow Sr. was a centerpiece in fellow Hall of Famer Don Coryell’s “Air Coryell” attack in the 1970s that helped the Bolts ignite for three consecutive AFL/AFC West crowns and lead the NFL in passing six times in Winslow’s first seven seasons.

They said it

“Versatility was the key for Kellen,” Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts recently told PFW. “That, combined with the creativity of Coryell, and you saw the results. [Winslow] really set the bar, the mold for today’s modern-day tight ends. He could put his hand down, go in motion, shift, line up wide.”

Key stat

From 1980 to ’84, Winslow’s 374 receptions led the NFL, and he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in all three seasons.

Did you know?

Winslow, whose introduction to football didn’t come until his senior season of high school, was an All-America tight end at the University of Missouri before becoming the 13th overall selection in the 1979 draft, where the Chargers swapped picks with the Cleveland Browns to move up and nab him.

At 6-foot-5 and 256 pounds, Winslow ran a 4.6 second 40-yard dash, making him one of the more unique prospects to enter the league. There, he and Coryell helped reimagine the tight end position, which was previously a staging point primarily for blocking but also short and intermediate receiving.

Signature game

There can only be one choice. The AFC divisional round in 1982, when Coryell’s Chargers traveled to battle Don Shula’s Dolphins. It’s known to this day is perhaps the greatest playoff game and one of the singularly most dominant efforts ever.

Battling dehydration in addition to a list of ailments in sticky South Florida, Winslow secured then-playoff records with 13 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, helping the Chargers build a 24-0 lead. Then, after Miami’s furious comeback, Winslow blocked a potential game-winning field goal in the closing moments to force overtime, where the Bolts finally persevered.

The image of Winslow being carried off the field by his teammates is among the most iconic in NFL history. “He dominated,” Fouts said. “Each time we needed a first down or big play, it was Kellen. What’s overlooked is that (Charlie) Joiner and (Wes) Chandler also went over 100 yards, and what Winslow did over the middle played a huge part.”

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