New Penn State commit KJ Winston: 'There’s a real brotherhood there'
The Penn State football program picked up another coveted prospect Saturday in DeMatha safety KJ Winston.
A resident of Columbia, Md., Winston has been one of the staff’s top defensive back prospects in the Class of 2022 for over a year now. After earning an offer from the Nittany Lions in May of 2020, Winston steadily climbed up the staff's recruiting board throughout last fall and into this spring, when DeMatha played a shortened season. By then, Winston, who holds a three-star rating, had built a strong relationship with new safeties coach Anthony Poindexter, so by the time he was able to take official visits this summer, it was clear that the Nittany Lions were the team to beat.
“Coach Dex is my guy,” Winston said. “He’s great. Aside from the whole coaching aspect and everything, he’s just so genuine. Every time I talk to him, it’s not like he’s forcing something. I love that he never bashed Maryland, since that was the other school I was considering. He’s never talked down on any other school, saying Maryland is this, Maryland is that. I really like that. He just recruits the right way and is always very positive.
“He also always checks up on my family, cares about how we’re doing. When I see a call from him, I’m always happy to take the call, and that’s not always the case with all these coaches. It’s hard taking all these calls all the time, but I’m always upbeat and excited to talk with Coach Dex. He’s easy to relate with and he played a big role in this process. My family loves Coach Dex.”
As Winston mentioned, Maryland proved to be Penn State’s top competitor in his recruitment, although he also took an official visit to Michigan State. The Spartans were the first program to host him, June 4-6, followed by Penn State, June 11-13, and then Maryland, June 18-20.
Penn State then got a second opportunity to host Winston that final weekend in June, as DeMatha participated in the Lion Strong 7-on-7 tournament on June 25. Winston actually ended up staying the night in State College, which gave him the opportunity to spend the evening with the majority of Penn State’s committed players, who were taking their official visits that weekend.
That second visit ended up playing a major role in his decision.
“The first thing I tell people when anyone asks me about Penn State is the players, and really all the people I’m going to be around all the time,” he said. “It starts with the players though, the guys I met when I went up there, and then the recruits, too, especially the second time I went up there. There were a lot of commits there when I went up [June 25] and there’s a real brotherhood there. I know you probably hear that all the time, but it’s the truth. I feel like I really see that at Penn State and I come from a school in DeMatha that stresses that.
“So, I just felt like that was home for me. Everyone up there is always real welcoming. [The players] always know who I am. When you go to places a lot the second time, they don’t always remember you, but everyone up there really treated me and my family well and you can just tell that they want me to be part of their brotherhood.”
One other thing that Winston noted is that he likes the college town vibe in State College, adding that it presents him an opportunity to be around people in a fun community, but also get away and find quiet time.
“Coming from Maryland and in the DC area, Penn State is different. It’s all together in a nice town there, but there are areas up there where you can escape and find places that are really chill," Winston said. "I like that a lot. It has both. It has a fun vibe in [State College] where you can be around people and all that, but also areas where you can get away and focus on whatever it is. So, I think that’s a good mix for me. Sometimes I like to get away, so it’s a good place to get both.”
Following Tyreese Fearbry’s decision to open up his recruitment Thursday, Penn State’s Class of 2022 now sits at 23 commitments. The Nittany Lions should be done at defensive back now that Winston is on board. Cam Miller and Jordan Allen are both expected to play cornerback, while Winston and junior college prospect Tyrece Mills will play safety. It should be noted that athletes Cristain Driver and Mehki Flowers could also play safety if needed, although both have publicly declared a preference to play wide receiver.
“This 2022 class is special,” Winston said. “This class is going to make a difference up there. I’m ready to be a part of that family and I’m excited to get going.”
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