Foot­ball takes Winn from Pea Ridge to Copen­hagen

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - RICK FIRES Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWARick.

Day­ton Winn once went on a cruise, which, un­til re­cently, was the far­thest he’d been away from home.

Now, he’s spend­ing his sum­mer in Den­mark, which is nearly 5,000 miles and a large ocean away from Arkansas. What’s more, he’s liv­ing in Copen­hagen, one of the largest metropoli­tan ar­eas in Europe with a pop­u­la­tion that ex­ceeds 2 mil­lion.

That’s a huge dif­fer­ence for a young man who grew up in Pea Ridge and went to Hen­drix Col­lege in Con­way.

“Den­mark, it is def­i­nitely a cul­ture shock,” wrote Winn, who com­mu­ni­cates with his friends and fam­ily in Arkansas by email be­cause call­ing is so ex­pen­sive. “There are bikes ab­so­lutely ev­ery­where. I have learned that the gov­ern­ment will pay you to go to school and that there are no guns any­where. Luck­ily, ev­ery­one here does know English so com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple hasn’t been a prob­lem at all.”

So, what’s a for­mer Pea Ridge Black­hawks run­ning back do­ing in Europe? Play­ing Amer­i­can foot­ball, of course.

Winn is a run­ning back and spe­cial teams player for the Copen­hagen Tow­ers, a pro­fes­sional team in the Dan­ish Amer­i­can Foot­ball League. Winn was made aware of this op­por­tu­nity by Jor­dan Neal, the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Hen­drix, who knew the Tow­ers’ ath­letic di­rec­tor Anders Skov­gren.

Play­ers are paid, but noth­ing like on the scale of an NFL or Cana­dian Foot­ball League player. There is also a limit on Amer­i­can play­ers, much like the CFL.

“I have a work con­tract that in­cludes coach­ing Copen­hagen’s younger [age group] teams,” Winn said. “It’s go­ing well. I am stay­ing with a fam­ily who has a kid on the team un­til they find an apart­ment for us to move into.”

Winn (6-foot, 160 pounds) is seek­ing ex­po­sure at the pro­fes­sional level fol­low­ing an out­stand­ing ca­reer at Hen­drix Col­lege, where he was a two-time mem­ber of the Associated Press’ Lit­tle All-Amer­i­can teams. He fin­ished with 8,296 all-pur­pose yards and scored 85 touch­downs. In 2016, he was named one of 10 semi­fi­nal­ists for the Gagliardi Tro­phy as the most out­stand­ing foot­ball player in Divi­sion III.

Winn was a two-time all-state se­lec­tion in high school at Pea Ridge, where he rushed for more than 4,000 yards dur­ing his ca­reer and led the Black­hawks to a 10-2 record as a se­nior.

“Day­ton is a com­plete player, a kind of throwback to the old days,” Hen­drix Col­lege coach Justin “Buck” Buchanan said. “He’s a quiet kid with un­be­liev­able vi­sion and ac­cel­er­a­tion. He had a tremen­dous ca­reer here and put up some mind-bog­gling num­bers.”

Winn has done well while play­ing for the Tow­ers. He’s av­er­ag­ing more than 200 all-pur­pose yards per game, and there are high­light videos on YouTube of Winn run­ning for touch­downs.

Winn plans to do some sight-see­ing in Europe af­ter the foot­ball sea­son ends in Oc­to­ber.

He is hope­ful his time overseas will lead to other foot­ball op­por­tu­ni­ties in the United States or Canada. An­dreas Knappe, a 6-foot8 of­fen­sive tackle, signed as an un­drafted free agent with the At­lanta Fal­cons af­ter play­ing col­lege foot­ball at Con­necti­cut. Knappe could be­come the first player born in Den­mark to ap­pear in the NFL since Morten An­der­sen, a for­mer Hall of Fame place­kicker.

Buchanan is hope­ful there is also an op­por­tu­nity in the NFL or CFL for Winn, who is ac­cus­tomed to prov­ing peo­ple wrong about his abil­ity.

“Peo­ple might laugh at him get­ting off the bus, but they’re cry­ing when he gets back on it,” Buchanan said. “They think he’s too small, but all he does is run away from the bad guys with the foot­ball. Day­ton has a lot of foot­ball left in him if some­one just gives him a chance.”

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