Winkler signs to play football at Nebraska Wesleyan
     2013-05-30      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
While many of his Scottsbluff football teammates signed national letters of intent in February, Taylor Winkler took a little extra time – and the rest of an exciting basketball season – to make his college decision.

After visiting Nebraska Wesleyan University in late April, Winkler discovered that the time spent in ensuring his choice was worth the wait and in mid-May he signed his letter to play for the Prairie Wolves.

“I wasn’t really sure because I hadn’t visited all the colleges yet, so I didn’t want to rush anything when the other guys were signing,” Winkler said. “I visited other schools and then I made my decision after that.”

After he visited Wesleyan in late April, Winkler said “it was pretty much an automatic light-bulb moment. It just felt right and that was best for me. I like all the facilities and just everything they brought to the table.”

Winkler realizes that Wesleyan, an NAIA-affiliated institution, obviously gets overshadowed in Lincoln by the University of Nebraska, but he is fine with that aspect of attending NWU.

“I think it will be fine, just as long as I am getting to play football, I’m fine with whatever,” he said.

NAIA programs usually have both varsity and junior varsity programs, so Winkler said he should be playing immediately on either team.

“They want to guys in and out in four years, so I will have the chance to play right away with JV or varsity,” he added.

The Prairie Wolves won their last five games in 2012 and finished the season with a 6-4, including a 5-4 mark in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Wesleyan enters its 18th season under head coach Brian Keller, who is the Prairie Wolves’ winningest coach with a 94-77 record.

Winkler’s signing marks eight seniors from Scottsbluff’s undefeated regular-season team that won its third straight District B-8 title last fall.

In February, Jon Maag and Luke Worden signed with the University of South Dakota; Ty Dunkel, Matthew T. Klein and Randy Wentz committed to Chadron State College; and Tim Magdaleno signed with Midlands University in Fremont. Eric Moreno has signed to play baseball at Trinidad (Colo.) State College.

Winkler led Scottsbluff in receiving last fall with 23 receptions for 554 yards and five touchdowns. He had more than one-third of the Bearcats’ 67 catches, his yardage was more than half of Scottsbluff’s receiving yardage, and his five TDs were among nine caught by Bearcat receivers.

Winkler was one of 11 Bearcats – including double honorees – who earned all-district honors in the process.

“Our main thing was that we would come out and try to run the ball a few times, then we’d try to hit it deep, then run a few more and try to hit it deep again, and that was our strategy,” he said.

“Just the guys we were playing with, we were riding so much momentum. Just every week, we kept getting better and better because we just kept winning.”

Of winning the Bearcats’ third B-8 title in a row, Winkler said, “That was definitely one of the best sports moments in my football career. I just tried to do everything I could. If the ball was in the air to me, I went and got it and let thinks go with the flow.”

Winkler was a key reserve on Scottsbluff’s Class B state championship basketball team in 2011-12 and earned a starting guard position on the court as a senior. He averaged 8.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, hitting 26 3-point shots with 37 assists and 22 steals in 27 games as a senior.

“In basketball, my mindset was more defense first, and then offense second, because when you have guys like Mike and Eric and Matt who can score, I felt I could contribute better playing defense,” he said.

Winkler said it was difficult to pick just one favorite moment from his high school career, which also included his participation in DECA.

“We’ve had so many moments this year, it’s hard to narrow it to just one, but I would definitely say the state tournament was the highlight for basketball season,” he said. “And then for football, beating McCook and winning the district title, since we hadn’t beaten McCook in I think it was in 11 years. That was definitely cool to be the class that broke that streak.”

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