Scott Winnewisser spent Thursday driving back to San Luis Obispo from his parents’ Santa Barbara home to pick up his things and say goodbye to Cal Poly — hopefully for more than just the summer.
The former Mustangs offensive lineman said he’ll fly Monday to New Orleans, where he’ll become the second Cal Poly player to sign with an NFL franchise this offseason.
Cornerback Asa Jackson was selected in the fifth round and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Winnewisser will be an undrafted free agent of the New Orleans Saints and a surprised one at that.
“We kind of were thinking that I wasn’t going to get called until the end of July and August because that’s kind of when they make their next roster moves in the offseason,” said Winnewisser, who is putting his final year of classes on hold to pursue a professional football career. “So, it was kind of a surprise, but I was definitely excited to hear.”
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Winnewisser was one of 22 unsigned rookies and more than 60 players invited to participate in the Saints’ rookie minicamp in mid-May. Competing against signed rookies and select veterans, Winnewisser performed well enough at offensive guard to garner a contract, which means he can immediately begin working out with the rest of the team.
Former Cal Poly defensive end Matt Singletary was invited to try out with the Minnesota Vikings and participated in their rookie minicamp in early May but has yet to sign anywhere.
It was Winneswisser’s one and only NFL tryout, but the former Bishop Diego High standout said there was no noticeable cloud hanging over a former championship-winning franchise still reeling from separate bounty and spying scandals as well as player and coach suspensions this offseason.
“It felt like everything was running smoothly. There was definitely no turmoil,” Winnewisser said. “Their coaching staff is all solid from my perspective. They have a bunch of great guys over there, and they’re still going to fight for a Super Bowl. Their mindset hasn’t really changed. It’s a great organization. I’m glad I could be a part of it and hopefully stay a part of it.”
Winnewisser is not guaranteed a spot for the upcoming season, but he will be trying out during training camp with the hopes of making the final roster. If he is cut at any point, he could sign to the practice squad or pursue opportunities with another franchise.
A three-year starter at tackle for Cal Poly, Winnewisser had a dubious start to his career as a Mustang, snapping the game-winning field goal as time expired in the season opener of his redshirt freshman season against San Diego State but also suffering a season-ending knee injury on the play.
He bounced back to earn all-conference honors each of the next three seasons, landing on the first team as a senior.
At 6-foot-4 1⁄2 and 285 pounds, Winnewisser served as a team captain and was voted most inspirational by his teammates following a 6-5 season in which Cal Poly ranked sixth in the FCS in rushing yards.
He put on more than 15 pounds to bulk up for the NFL, and the Saints had him playing right guard at the minicamp. Winnewisser played four games at guard last season, but he still has a lot to learn about the position and even more size to add.
“I need to get a little bigger,” Winnewisser said. “The guys that play for the Saints right now are pretty huge, I wasn’t the smallest rookie there, but I’m definitely a little undersized. I make up for it in technique and intelligence.
“The biggest challenge is just staying positive, staying healthy and doing what they want to see me do: Fight for a spot and get better every day, which I plan on doing.”