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Flames Feature: Thriving In His Anonymity
Fifth-year senior Jarrett Winfrey is one of those faces, silent and invisible to the throne of public praise. Winfrey, a native of Scottdale, Ga., anchors a Flames' offensive line that has helped Liberty build a solid running attack through the first five games of the 2006 season.
Winfrey has helped open the holes that have led sophomore tailback Rashad Jennings to 577 rushing yards, eight touchdowns and 115.4 yards per game average. Because of Winfrey's efforts on the offensive line, the team is averaging 5.5 yards per carry on the way to opening the season with a 3-2 record.
Winfrey decided to come to the Mountain five years ago out of Avondale High School in the suburbs of Atlanta where he was a two-time All-Dekalb County selection. The senior says that the decision was the best one he ever made.
"Liberty has meant a lot to me and I wouldn't trade my experiences for the world," said Winfrey. "I had other choices, but I was sold on Liberty's mission and I have been able to grow into a man here."
Winfrey's hometown of Scottdale is about 15 minutes outside of Atlanta in a lower income area and a predominately African-American neighborhood so coming to Lynchburg was quite a change.
"Part of my growth as a man has come from the melting pot I have experienced here at Liberty," said Winfrey. "I have grown from my interaction with other races and socializing with people from all sorts of walks of life. It has been instrumental in my growth off the field."
The small town feel of Lynchburg versus the urban sprawl of Atlanta has been a benefit for Winfrey. "Being here has been great because I have been able to concentrate on my studies and I don't lose my focus because of distractions that might arise in a bigger city," mentioned Winfrey.
On the field, Winfrey has been a pillar of strength and leadership. As a senior and one of the Flames' team captains, Winfrey was named to the I-AA .org Big South preseason all-conference second team, an honor that the young man sees as a motivating source.
"I was honored to be mentioned on that team and it makes me want to work that much harder," said Winfrey. "If I make first team on any post-season team it means that I have achieved my job and we have run the ball successfully, passed efficiently and won some football games."
Winfrey has been a silent member the past few seasons in several Flames' individual and team accomplishments. Last season, Zach Terrell rushed for a freshman school record 668 yards and two touchdowns on the way to earning Big South Freshman of the Year honors. In 2004, Winfrey helped the Flames rush for 2,334 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns (second most in school history in both stats), while helping the Flames average 212.2 rushing yards per game which ranks 22nd in the nation.
Winfrey doesn't worry about the accolades from such accomplishments. "I don't worry about getting public praise," said Winfrey. "On Monday, when we look at video and see Rashad [Jennings] run for 165 yards and three touchdowns, that is all I need."
These are words spoken like a true leader and a true captain. Winfrey joins Jennings, Manny Rojas and Jason Horn as team captains of this Flames squad.
"I am not a very vocal guy, so I try and lead by example and keep my teammates in line," said Winfrey. "When I lead by example I make sure my guys see how I am getting the job done because I am not that vocal."
"Jarrett [Winfrey] has done an outstanding job not only with his play this year, but his leadership as well," said head football coach Danny Rocco. "With the addition of Eddie Pinigis, we moved Jarrett from offensive tackle to guard and it has been a very natural move for him. It was for the betterment of the team and best for the offensive line. His willingness to change positions shows why he is one of our captains."
Winfrey is also a big fan of his fellow captains. "Manny [Rojas] and I have been here together for five years and we grown close and have a desire to put this program back on the map," said Winfrey. "Jason [Horn] is a lot like me, and I see how hard he works in the weight room and on the field which I love seeing. Rashad [Jennings] has awesome standards and morals and works hard for everything he has."
The drive to succeed comes from a role model Winfrey has looked up to his whole life. Winfrey had to look no farther than a cousin of his mother Minnie Whitaker. "He wanted to be an NFL quarterback and was told over and over that he wouldn't make it; however, he succeeded despite adversity," said Winfrey. That quarterback is no other than Hall of Famer Warren Moon.
"I see what he went through and his accomplishments through everything are a great source of strength for me," added Winfrey.
Off the field, Winfrey has become part of all Liberty has to offer. "I lived in the dorms for three years and loved hanging out in the halls, playing video games, going to prayer groups and learning from the wide array of students at Liberty," said Winfrey. "I really enjoyed meshing with these people. They have goals and are working towards them just like I am."
When reflecting on these fond memories of the Mountain, one on the field memory that Winfrey holds dear is a 31-28 Homecoming victory over VMI in 2003. "I will always remember helping my team score four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat the Keydets," commented Winfrey. "I will never forget that day."
Winfrey is set to graduate in December with a bachelor's degree in sports management. After graduation, Winfrey would like to possibly become an athletic director and coach at the high school level with a desire to move in to the college ranks some day.
A little known fact about this 6-4, 265 offensive lineman is why he is so nimble on his feet. For three years from seventh grade until ninth, Winfrey took Jazz dance lessons to pass the time between football and baseball seasons. "I wasn't into playing basketball and I needed something to do to pass the time," said Winfrey. "It was a lot of fun and I still have some pretty sweet moves."
As the sun sets on Winfrey's college football career, the young man looks to his time at Liberty with great fondness. To an unsung hero of the offensive line, wearing a Flames uniform and being apart of the student body means being apart of something bigger than himself. Those are sentiments spoken from a true captain that thrives in anonymity.
By Vincent Briedis
Liberty University Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director