There are days, around dinner time, that Colorado quarterback Steve Montez will get a text from senior Juwann Winfree, and he knows what it'll say.

"Are you going to come to the IPF and throw?" Winfree will ask him.

When he can, Montez will head to the Buffaloes' indoor practice facility and throw passes, "because I know our chemistry needs to be right."

If Montez, or CU's other quarterbacks, Tyler Lytle and Sam Noyer, aren't available, Winfree will go with plan B.

"Juwann has his girlfriend shooting him passes on the JUGS gun in the IPF," strength and conditioning coach Drew Wilson said. "He's fully invested into the commitment process. That's all you can ask."

Entering his fifth year in college, Winfree is still trying to become the star he thought he'd be when he left New Jersey's Dwight Morrow High School in New Jersey in 2014.

Rated a four-star prospect out of high school, Winfree said, “I told my mom I wanted to leave college early for the NFL.” 

Winfree's path hasn't been anything like he expected, however.

After a good start - he caught 11 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman, helping Maryland get to the Foster Farms Bowl - Winfree was dismissed from the team at Maryland.

In 2015, he landed at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and then signed with CU.


Arguably CU's best receiver during the first two weeks of fall camp in 2016, Winfree suffered a season-ending knee injury and sat out the entire season. Then, last year he was a backup to a trio of stellar seniors, finishing with 21 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns - both in a 38-24 loss to Southern California on Nov. 11.

Finally, Winfree's time to shine is here.

"This is my final chance to put everything together," he said. "Nobody expects to be five years in school, but I don't regret any bit of it. It's all God's plan and I'm just taking it bit by bit. I got my degree; that's the most important thing. I have one more season, so I'm doing what I have to do."

With five catches for 163 yards and two scores against USC, Winfree gave Buff Nation a glimpse of what he's capable of doing, and he hopes to show he can do it for a full season.

"It fueled me a lot," he said of that game. "I've always believed in myself and always had faith and thought I could do it. I sat back patiently and rooted for my brothers the whole season (in 2017). Just to get the opportunity (against USC) was big for me. It meant a lot for me and my family and opened a lot of eyes.

"I'm just going to keep rolling with that same enthusiasm, same work ethic, everything."

Wilson was Maryland's strength and conditioning coach when Winfree was there in 2014 and has been impressed with the maturation process he's seen in the now 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior.

"He was always talented," Wilson said. "Like every young kid, just not as mature (at 18) as he's going to be when he's 20-21 and not understanding how you have to play the game at a college level.

"His preparation to be a better player is completely changed. It's not that he didn't work hard (at Maryland); he just didn't understand it's an all the time thing."

He does now, and he's been relentless in his pursuit of greatness.

"Finally I see the vision, and I see the vision the coaches want for me," he said.

Montez marvels at Winfree's work ethic and said, "I look for him to have a huge year. He's a freak on the field."

Winfree is driven by more than individual success, however. Until last year, he had never been on a losing team in college, and he's stepping up as a leader to help the Buffs get back on a winning track.

"I know what it takes (to win) and I feel we just have to get everybody to buy in and it all starts with the leaders," he said. "If you're doing the wrong thing as a leader, the young boys are going to pick up on it. I have to lead by example."

Winfree didn't achieve his initial goal of leaving early for the NFL, although he admits his mom always told him, "You're going to get your degree first."

"It's crazy how it turns out," he said. "I got my degree first. Now, I just have to continue to push and get my next goal (of going to the NFL)."

With family, friends, kids in his hometown and CU faithful rooting for him, Winfree's pursuit of that goal continues.

"That's the reason why I go so hard, because I have all these people want to see me do well," he said. "I'm just not going to let up."


Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or