The Charlotte 49ers’ football media guide says cornerback Terrance Winchester was a “walk-on” with the squad when he entered school four years ago.
If so, it’s one of the few times he moved that slow.
Winchester, a redshirt junior, made history last weekend when he picked up a loose ball on the floor of the Georgia Dome and dashed 43 yards for Charlotte’s first touchdown against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
The Georgia State defenders who chased him never had a chance.
Winchester and the 49ers have a chance to run their record to 2-0 Saturday when they host Presbyterian at noon.
“I looked around, but nobody was around me,” Winchester says of last week’s big play, which happened about 90 seconds into the game.
Then again, that shouldn’t have been surprising. In high school, Winchester was a member of the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams from Berry Academy that won state 2A track championships on the same afternoon.
Despite a standout career in football and track at Berry , college recruiters didn’t knock down the door of the Winchester household in north Charlotte.
“I heard from UNC Pembroke and from Lenoir-Rhyne, but I wasn’t getting a lot of love,” Winchester says with a smile.
When he graduated in 2011, Charlotte was launching a football program. Winchester was approached by coaches about joining the team as a “preferred walk-on,” meaning he wouldn’t receive a scholarship but would get a good look-see from the 49ers in practice.
“I remember this place when it was trees and some cement,” Winchester says of Richardson Stadium. “I’ve gotten to see it grow.”
After a few months of practices, coach Brad Lambert offered Winchester a scholarship. He made eight starts as a redshirt freshman in 2013, leading the team with three interceptions. An injury hampered him last season, but he had 13 tackles in a game against nationally ranked Coastal Carolina.
Winchester had a career first quarter last week, with the fumble return, an interception and several tackles.
“I’m trying not to live in the past,” he says. “I’m using the game as a learning experience – the good and the bad.”
That’s consistent with Lambert’s mantra of “living in the moment.”
“Each game is a new challenge,” Winchester said. “And I work each week to improve.”
Winchester, a sociology major who plays bass guitar in a church band, says 49ers students are excited about the program’s move up to FBS status, in college football’s big time.
“I’ve heard a lot of ‘How do I get a ticket?’ in the last week,” he says. “The opening game is big, and I think it will be big around here when we start playing night games.
“I’ll tell you this. I am happy I came here. Being with this program as it grows has been exciting.”