Highland head football coach Jimmy Warnecke meets annually with select Bulldogs to help them plot their goals for the season.
When he sat down with Andrew Winning, it was clear the soft-spoken senior running back already had already charted a course for himself.
The specifics of Winning’s goals are held strictly between him and his coach. Some are statistical, some are team-centered. All are stacked toward making him the best athlete and person he can possibly be, Warnecke says.
“When I sat down with Andrew about his goals, the conversation was on a whole other level than the other kids,” Warnecke said. “I’m not going to get into the specifics of the goals he set for himself, but it’s pretty eye opening. It’s amazing the standard he holds himself to.”
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Eye-opening as well was Winning’s performance in the Bulldog’s season-opener against Cahokia Friday.
His singular goal for the game was the same as any ball carrier’s — the end zone. He got there five times as part of a 231-yard rushing night which helped lead Highland to a 45-8 win.
He was an easy choice for the Belleville News-Democrat’s week one Athlete of the Week.
Winning blitzed an athletic and experienced Cahokia defense with scoring runs of 10, 2, 15, 24 and 8 yards and averaged 10 yards per carry. He tacked on four catches for an additional 26 yards.
“The line was great, the fullbacks, the blocks were phenomenal,” Winning said. “I just tried to cut fast since they were fast and try to run through some weak tackles.”
Winning has rushed for 2,068 yards and 24 touchdowns in his two previous seasons on the varsity, which he says is a reflection of the tremendous line play that has become the Bulldogs’ trademark.
But whatever credit he or Warnecke heap on the line is reciprocated. Winning’s success, says second-year lineman Austin Bush, is the line’s success.
“It’s always our goal for Andrew to have a great week,” said Bush, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound senior. “We want to pound the rock on every team we play. But Andrew makes it easier, as well, because he is so good at setting up our blocks.”
Winning is thick and well-conditioned, but at 5-9 and 180 pounds isn’t the prototypical power runner. He brings a good burst and lateral movement to his position, Warnecke says, but can also run bigger than his actual physical stature.
It’s an ability Winning calls “running with an attitude.”
“Something I heard from a program up north is they don’t expect their running backs to be tackled by just one guy,” Warnecke said. “If he’s going to go down it’s going to take two of them. That’s something Andrew and I have talked about and it’s been his approach anyway. On the football field, on the baseball field, whatever it is he does, he does it like he’s got something to prove.”
Winning has proved plenty on both the football and baseball fields. Last fall, it was his two-out, sixth-inning home run in the super-sectional that propelled the Bulldogs to the Class 3A state tournament, which they eventually won.
Though he’s already had a memorable high school career, he sees his senior season as the last and best chance to earn an athletic scholarship, in either baseball or football, to a Division I college.
“Andrew kind of walks his own path. He’s kind of quiet and does his own thing. That’s just how he is, but on Friday nights he comes out and plays football. Nobody on this team can question is competitiveness. He is driving himself constantly toward his goals.”
News-Democrat Athlete of the Week
Week 1: Highland’s Andrew Winning