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Safety Tyler Nubin found inspiration in former Gophers teammate Antoine Winfield Jr.

INDIANAPOLIS — As a teenager trying to find his way at the University of Minnesota, Tyler Nubin got to learn the ropes from fellow safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Now, as a 22-year-old preparing for the NFL, Nubin is once again using his former Gophers teammate as inspiration.

Talking to reporters on Thursday at the NFL Combine, Nubin spoke glowingly about Winfield, who has established himself among the best safeties in the league since being taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2020 draft.

“It doesn’t surprise me what he’s been able to do in the league because I was able to see it firsthand,” Nubin said. “Just how he handled himself and how he carried himself in college, he was already a pro before he was a pro.”

If Nubin has his way, he will follow in Winfield’s footsteps.

He’s already well on his way to doing that after starring for the Gophers defense and establishing himself as arguably the top safety in the 2024 draft. He played 55 games for the Gophers, making 207 tackles, and most impressively, hauling in a program-record 13 interceptions.

The only Gophers defensive player who might have been a better playmaker than Nubin over the past decade or so is Winfield.

“He definitely set the standard,” Nubin said. “Honestly, a lot of my game and a lot of how I approach the game came from Antoine Winfield Jr.”

Though they were only teammates for a year, Nubin was a sponge, soaking up as much as he could from Winfield.

“His pure intensity and love for the game I really admired when I first got there,” Nubin said. “I saw how that translated on the field, so every single day I tried to emulate that.”

That served Nubin well as he went on to make a name for himself. Whenever the Gophers needed a play to be made over the past couple of seasons, Nubin would swoop in at the last moment and save the day with a highlight. How did he always seem to be in the right place at the right time?

“I would say my intelligence comes a lot into how I play,” he said. “I make plays because I know what’s coming. I get into the mind of the offensive coordinator, and I’m able to diagnose situations and formations really well. That’s how I make my plays.”

As if the mirroring playing style wasn’t already enough, Nubin also leaned on Winfield as he found his voice as a leader.

“I’m a guy that’s not afraid to speak up when I need to,” Nubin said. “I’m also a guy that knows when to step back and learn and to listen.”

As impressive as Nubin’s resume is, it’s unlikely that the Vikings will prioritize safety in this draft, which means he could end up making plays for somebody else. That’s OK. It worked out pretty well for Winfield.

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