The Eden Prairie High School football factory had churned out 11 big-school state championships since 1996, yet only two of its players' names were called in an NFL draft prior to last year, Jay Foreman in 1999 and Carter Bykowski in 2013.
Note: Mark LeVoir signed as an undrafted free agent in 2006.
Last year, the NFL called on two Eden Prairie alumni, Ryan Connelly (fifth round, 143rd overall pick) and Blake Cashman ( fifth round, 157th overall pick).
Connelly, a linebacker, would make the New York Giants roster, Cashman, another linebacker, the New York Jets roster.
This year, the NFL would call on two more players with Eden Prairie ties.
Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was drafted in the second round (45th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tom Brady is his new teammate.
Note: Winfield's father played in the NFL for 14 years.
Rush end Carter Coughlin was drafted in the seventh round (218th overall) by the New York Giants.
Connelly, Coughlin's old Eden Prairie teammate, will be his new New York Giants teammate.
As a ninth-grader, Winfield played on Eden Prairie's 2012 state championship team. He finished his high school career in Houston.
“He was pretty good and pretty physical as a freshman,” remembered Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant. “Would he be big enough and physical enough moving forward? He answered that at the U.”
At the University of Minnesota, Winfield was a Unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year.
In 2019, he counted 88 tackles and seven interceptions.
In 33 career games as a Gopher, he registered 177 tackles and nine interceptions.
Coughlin won two state championships at Eden Prairie High School.
“He always had a great work ethic,” said Grant.
Coughlin played outside linebacker and rush end in both high school and college.
“He's got that outside speed,” said Grant. “In today's NFL, that's what they're looking for.”
At the University of Minnesota, Coughlin played in 49 career games and ranks third all-time in sacks (22.5) and fourth all-time in tackles-for-loss (40). He also broke up four passes and forced seven fumbles.
At Tampa Bay, Winfield is expected to see meaningful minutes right away.
That's not unusual for a second-round draft pick.
As a seventh-round pick, Coughlin's path to Sunday playing time is less clear.
“He'll have to play some special teams,” guesses Grant, “but he can do that. He played special teams at the U before his senior year.”
Coughlin's motor runs full speed.
“He's always been fun to watch,” said Grant.