On April 21st, 2001 The San Francisco 49er’s acquired Vanderbilt’s outside linebacker Jamie Winborn in the second round with the 47th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. Jamie is expected to start immediately and contribute to the overall prosperity of the newly improved 49er defense.

Jamie Winborn is expected to be a real surprise for the 49er’s as a rookie this season, He has an exceptional nose for the ball. His motor is constantly running and he always seems to be in on plays. He will have the chance to compete for the left outside linebacker position with Jeff Ulbrich, but even in a worst case scenario we would have Winborn playing in the nickel package as a coverage linebacker.

The linebackers of the 49er’s seem to be getting a complete makeover, mostly for the fact that the defense was largely responsible for the 49er’s two struggling seasons. The defense continues to make enormous strides despite the critics that continue to be an irritation that do not go away.

“Jamie is a big-time playmaker,” said defensive coordinator Jim Mora. “He goes sideline-to-sideline with speed and energy. He’ll make a great addition to our defense.”

Winborn is expected to challenge immediately for the starting position left vacant by the release of Ken Norton Jr. The position commonly known as the 'plugger’ position.
Many people fans included believed at first that Winborn was far too short to be an effective linebacker, and the doubts were registered as of day one when he was drafted, however he comes with very impressive credentials and seems to have impressed everyone on the staff thus far.

“This is unbelievable, said Winborn. “This is where I wanted to be all along. I’ve got a lot to prove. But I can’t wait to get out there and start working.”

Jamie was Red-shirted in 1997. He led the team and the entire Southeastern Conference in tackles in 1998 with 131. Included in that total were 15 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. He defended his tackling crown in 1999 with 141, including 23 for negative yardage and 5.5 sacks.

Unfortunately he did have some flaws he was suspended for the first two games of the 2000 season for getting free financial-planning advice and help with getting an individual line of credit. He came back to start Game three and finished the season with 105 stops, seven for a loss and three sacks. He has made either first or second-team ALL-SEC the past three years.

Jamie has more than proven his worth as a college playmaker, he is in my own opinion more than ready to step in and make a difference. He has natural ability and plays the game with intensity and passion.
He is a sideline-to-sideline player, and he likes to use speed and roam. If anything he will be a shot of fresh air in this position, no punt intended to Ken Norton Jr. whom I have an immense amount of respect for.

But Norton was at the last stage of being an overall effective playmaker, doing just enough to get the job done. We need more than just getting the job done we need to make a definite statement that we are back with a vengeance. Winborn will provide this tenacity and the free spirit and strength to make this happen.

Jamie Winborn comes from Vanderbilt as an outside linebacker and has been compared to none other than Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He stands 5-11 and weighs 232-pounds. His speed in the 40-yard dash stands at 4.51.

Versus the inside run: He is a bit of a tweener, he could play inside or outside as a linebacker. He is a better fit outside because of his size. He still lacks some size on the outside, but he has shown the ability to shed blockers. He is active and makes a lot of plays with quickness and good change-of-direction skills. He needs to improve inside tackling skills; he does not always wrap-up a ball carrier when he has to.

Versus the outside run: He reads, reacts, sheds and makes plays on the run. He is everything a coach wants in a strong-side linebacker. Shows great range. Has the ability to dominate match-ups against tight ends in the running game. He also makes a lot of plays out of the backfield because of his quickness, speed and athleticism.

Blitz/coverage: He looks unnatural in coverage, especially on drops. He will develop into a solid cover guy, especially against tight ends because of likely speed advantage against most NFL tight ends. He will need to work on the technical aspect of coverage. He can be a good pass rusher, but it is more of his style to roam around the line of scrimmage and make plays just a few yards up field.

Run/pass recognition: He has great natural instincts, but he needs to be taught what to do with them. He has never been asked to play in coverage, and never has been a pure pass rush linebacker. No reason to get discouraged though because he is football smart and will pick up any scheme.

Pursuit/tackling: He has elite ability to make plays in space. He is a roaming player; he likes to make plays on the run with little responsibility. He needs to improve though as a tackler, but he is much better in the open field and in pursuit than in a structured environment.

Bottom line: Jamie Winborn is an exciting prospect because of his natural skills and athleticism. He has all the intangibles, and if he adds some bulk he will be even more impressive.

Winborn is a thickly built well-developed athlete who is built a little along the lines of Mike Singletary. He is a top competitor. Good leverage player. And he plays the game in good football position. He breaks down well and keeps his pads low when taking on blockers or tackling.
Very tough and aggressive. Quick, active and explosive. Quick to make his reads and to react. Can get into the hole quickly and blow a runner up or go sideline-to-sideline. Good blitzer. And he is improving on pass coverage. He is very durable, and has not missed a game he was allowed to play in.

He is a little shorter than you would like, and may have some trouble seeing the ball at times. He will guess and gamble. He does not do a great job of taking on blockers and must be covered up and protected. He likes to run around the blocker, and when he guesses wrong and goes to the wrong side of the blocker, big holes are created.

Well you can guess that he is no Mike Singletary as of yet, but he is cut from a somewhat similar mold. He can be an effective player in the right defense, where he is protected well and free to run to the ball. I feel he will be better than average in the hindsight as he has already had impressive mini-camps and is making the staff believe he is ready to start.

Even though Winborn had some off-the-field transgressions before the NFL Draft it did not deter the San Francisco 49er’s from drafting him in the second round. In fact they were proud as to the way he handled his bump in the road. Winborn was suspended for the first two games of the 2000 season for getting both free financial-planning advice and help with getting an individual line of credit.

“It was just my screw-up,” he said “I didn’t utilize all the people I had surrounding me. People (like) the compliance officer right upstairs, that I could have gone to for advice before I went out and tried to get a loan. I didn’t do that and I paid for it. I learned a lesson.”

Some may say that this transgression seems minor at best in some regards I for one am one of those. However I supposed it did help that he understood that what he did was really wrong, and that he should have done more research before going out on his own with no idea as to what he was doing.

The 49er’s did their own investigation into the matter concerning Jamie Winborn before they even thought about drafting him in the second round, and they came back with very satisfactory results.

“Everything that we can possibly learn about a man, we make an attempt to do that,” San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci said. “There’s always extenuating circumstances. We got explanations and we felt comfortable doing this.”

The 49er’s like most NFL franchises do extensive background checks into a players past, cutting away at it like a surgeon to find out any and all blemishes. An athlete is subject to grueling scrutiny before a major NFL Draft to determine that the franchise is acquiring the best overall prospect it can. Jamie Winborn was no exception.

The 49er’s are very hopeful that Jamie will adapt and be everything that they anticipate him to be, almost in the same prototype as former rookie linebacker first round draft choice Julian Peterson.

“He’s 5-11, which is a little below the norm, but he makes up for it with his toughness, instincts, quickness and cover-ability,” Mariucci said. “He gives us some real, legitimate speed.”

Winborn, who runs a 4.62 40-yard dash, will attempt to step in for Ken Norton Jr. (who was released) at the “plugger” position. He is not quite big enough to play the “mike” position. Which is the other inside linebacker position where Winfred Tubbs (who was also released) started last year.

The loss of two wily veteran players such as Norton and Tubbs was unfortunate but a necessity considering their decline in both speed and age. I have a great deal of respect for both players, and believe that they did contribute to the remaking of this franchise.

The salary cap is what broke the camels back in terms of their release from the franchise, they both commanded salaries that were far too expensive. The money saved by their release enables us to acquire fresh young talent that although raw, it will develop into something that is reasonable and long-term.

“The mike position in our system is the guy who is often over an uncovered guard,” Mariucci said. “He’s got to be a little bigger, and more physical. The plugger plays behind a couple of defensive linemen and he is the runner.” “That’s a spot where I can make a lot of things happen,” he said. “I think I am faster than (Norton). I think I have a little more range. But he is a great player, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.”

Winborn like any rookie is eager to go out and show off what he can do in front of the coaching staff, he has already impressed the staff with his hard-hitting style of play. He is expected to compete with free-agent just signed Derek Smith and second-year player Jeff Ulbrich for the two starting inside linebacker jobs.

Smith would have to be utterly terrible to not start in the “mike” position, given the five-year, $10.75 million deal the 49er’s gave him to pry him away from the Washington Redskins.

Just to give you an idea of how respected football players are from Vanderbilt, four players were selected in the 2001 NFL Draft on the weekend of April 21-22, tying the school record for draft picks in a season.

Linebacker Jamie Winborn (2nd round, San Francisco 49er’s) was drafted on Saturday, along with Linebacker Matt Stewart (4th round, Atlanta Falcons), Kicker John Markham (5th round, New York Giants) and Cornerback Jimmy Williams (6th round, Buffalo Bills).

In some interesting chat questions done by ESPN with Jamie Winborn here is a few that really stood out, in regards to the Vanderbilt linebacker. Winborn was part of the ESPN.com Timeout Chat Show, and he took anyone’s questions as they appeared on the Internet.

Patrick Monterey, CA: Jim Mora was quoted in saying he thinks you could make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. What are your thoughts on that?

Jamie Winborn: Actually, I didn’t know he said that. I don’t know if I would go that far, I don’t know what I am getting myself into! I just plan to be coached as well as I can and help the team.

49er fan: Jamie has Garrison Hearst forgiven you yet for the hit you laid on him at mini-camp? Also, how does Hearst look?

Jamie Winborn: Yeah, he has! I explained to him I was just trying to make a name for myself and go for the ball. I told him I was sorry. I have the utmost respect for him and he is helping me so much. I think he’s forgiven me!

Chris (San Francisco): As a kid growing up, what NFL team did you root for and how did you feel initially when you were drafted by a five-time super bowl team?

Jamie Winborn: You know what, I’ve always liked the 49er’s. Lott was my man. I loved him. I lived in Texas a long time so the West Coast teams I was most fond of. I just love the 49er’s. When I got drafted by them, all I could think was I’m going to the West Coast and I’ve never been there before. It’s like a dynasty out there. I wanted to be a part of it.

49er’s fan: Hey Jamie, Going into tour first training camp, what do you look forward to the most and least?

Jamie Winborn: I’m in that freshman stage so I don’t know what to expect. I’m basically killing myself out there. I love to watch film so I’m just in a learning stage right now. The competition, I know I have the talent, so I just have to take care of my body off the field.

Derek (Wichita): Jamie who was your biggest influence growing up?

Jamie Winborn: My influence was my uncle in Texas. He always stayed on top of me. At the time I thought he was the hardest man in the world but now I see what he was all about. He wanted me to make the right decisions.

Eric (Baton Rouge, LA.): With the absence of a true veteran linebacker on the team this year, what steps are you guys taking as a linebacker corps. to find leadership? I mean, do you guys have someone in mind to step up and assume the role, or will it just take care of itself as the season progresses?

Jamie Winborn: I think we have a veteran in Derek Smith. He is an amazing player with a great work ethic. I don’t know how he’s that smart on the field. And Peterson is phenomenal. The defensive line has been there a while so they have done a great job helping us out and working with us. Its family.

I thought I would share some of these excerpts as I thought they were both interesting and informative, it really makes me appreciate the fact that Jamie seems all that determined in making a name for himself and that the sky is the limit for him. I believe after reading this chat forum that he will deliver on his promises as best as he can in learning a new system and philosophy of playing.

The San Francisco 49er’s came to an agreement on a contract with Jamie Winborn on Tuesday, July 24th, 2001. The former Vanderbilt star will go to camp penciled in as the starter at the “plugger” position at linebacker going into training camp.

Winborn agreed to a four-year deal worth $2.8 million, including a $1.275 million signing bonus, according to his agent, Terry Bolar. Winborn was the 47th player chosen in the draft and, barring a collapse at training camp, he will step into the vacancy created by the release of Ken Norton Jr. this spring.

In his combined three seasons in college, Winborn started 31 games and totaled 377 tackles, including 45 for losses, and 16.5 sacks. To me that is pretty impressive in three years considering he was suspended for two of those games. I see a determined and hungry athlete that his biting at the bridle to go out and prove himself in front of the masses.

I also believe that Jamie is very proud to be a 49er, having grown up and admired them from afar. He has indicated at how fortunate he has been to land on a championship caliber team in the 49er’s. I am happy to see that we are solidifying the linebacker vacancies this season with the dramatic releases of two experienced and productive veterans in Ken Norton Jr. and Winfred Tubbs.

I do believe that it was time though for them to move on not just for salary cap purposes but for longevity of the team as well. After so many years of endless contact and physical pounding, youth is the only alternative to meeting this type of constant contact.

“Now that the business side of things is done, I just want to go out there and have fun,” Winborn said from Atlanta before boarding a late Tuesday flight from the Bay Area. “I know exactly what the expectations are for me. They want me to start. But I don’t expect them to hand anything to me, so I’ve spent the last two weeks preparing as if I’m starting from the bottom of the pack.”

Winborn is ecstatic about his new contract; the contract also features an option for a fifth year, which Winborn may void if he reaches a 15% playing-time incentive, Bolar his agent said.

“It’s a lot more than I expected,” said Winborn, a three-year starter at Vanderbilt who bypassed his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. “My agent did a really good job squeezing out as much as he could.”

Oh wait a minute here hope he is not saying it is all about the money? But I don’t think he is, he seems to be a young athlete amazed at how huge and detailed the world of the NFL really is. You would have to be in shell shock to not think any different. Winborn seems to be the type of player that will give you all 100% and then some.

If he doesn’t then all the scouting and all the research that the 49er scouting department has done on this individual will be for naught. We must believe and have faith in the system, for we have them as our eyes and our ears to picking and evaluating new and upcoming talent in the college rankings.

We do not always bat a great average though as you know look at our 1999 NFL Draft? That is reason enough that we must try harder and do even more research. Jamie Winborn will succeed if he believes he will, all of us as fans need to allow him the growing pains to get there. I believe he is a man on a mission.

When you look at what San Francisco sacrificed to get linebacker Jamie Winborn in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, you have to realize that they really passed on a much-needed running back prospect at that time. The 49er’s were planning on moving second-year man Jeff Ulbrich from middle linebacker to the “plugger” position formerly held by Ken Norton Jr. But Winborn seems to be a more natural fit.

Even though Winborn is considered on the small side, he makes up for size with speed and athleticism. He has good instincts as well and is a good open-field run-stopper. He was a very productive linebacker for Vanderbilt and he is expected to bring that same tenacity and spirit with him into training camp as a 49er.

Whether or not he wins the starting position at training camp against Jeff Ulbrich will still have to be determined but I am very optimistic. Ulbrich will provide the kind of competition that will be both healthy and rewarding. Success will only be obtained through very hard work and a hunger for playing time.

Julian Peterson, Derek Smith and Jamie Winborn would be a great threesome in the linebacker corps. They could in fact be one of the best in the league with a spectacular season statistically. If anything he will be a new cog in the wheel on defense that must work in order for us to make that next transition from playing to contending.