Dayton Winn once went on a cruise, which, until recently, was the farthest he’d been away from home.
Now, he’s spending his summer in Denmark, which is nearly 5,000 miles and a large ocean away from Arkansas. What’s more, he’s living in Copenhagen, one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe with a population that exceeds 2 million.
That’s a huge difference for a young man who grew up in Pea Ridge and went to Hendrix College in Conway.
“Denmark, it is definitely a culture shock,” wrote Winn, who communicates with his friends and family in Arkansas by email because calling is so expensive. “There are bikes absolutely everywhere. I have learned that the government will pay you to go to school and that there are no guns anywhere. Luckily, everyone here does know English so communicating with people hasn’t been a problem at all.”
So, what’s a former Pea Ridge Blackhawks running back doing in Europe? Playing American football, of course.
Winn is a running back and special teams player for the Copenhagen Towers, a professional team in the Danish American Football League. Winn was made aware of this opportunity by Jordan Neal, the offensive coordinator at Hendrix, who knew the Towers’ athletic director Anders Skovgren.
Players are paid, but nothing like on the scale of an NFL or Canadian Football League player. There is also a limit on American players, much like the CFL.
“I have a work contract that includes coaching Copenhagen’s younger [age group] teams,” Winn said. “It’s going well. I am staying with a family who has a kid on the team until they find an apartment for us to move into.”
Winn (6-foot, 160 pounds) is seeking exposure at the professional level following an outstanding career at Hendrix College, where he was a two-time member of the Associated Press’ Little All-American teams. He finished with 8,296 all-purpose yards and scored 85 touchdowns. In 2016, he was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Gagliardi Trophy as the most outstanding football player in Division III.
Winn was a two-time all-state selection in high school at Pea Ridge, where he rushed for more than 4,000 yards during his career and led the Blackhawks to a 10-2 record as a senior.
“Dayton is a complete player, a kind of throwback to the old days,” Hendrix College coach Justin “Buck” Buchanan said. “He’s a quiet kid with unbelievable vision and acceleration. He had a tremendous career here and put up some mind-boggling numbers.”
Winn has done well while playing for the Towers. He’s averaging more than 200 all-purpose yards per game, and there are highlight videos on YouTube of Winn running for touchdowns.
Winn plans to do some sight-seeing in Europe after the football season ends in October.
He is hopeful his time overseas will lead to other football opportunities in the United States or Canada. Andreas Knappe, a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons after playing college football at Connecticut. Knappe could become the first player born in Denmark to appear in the NFL since Morten Andersen, a former Hall of Fame placekicker.
Buchanan is hopeful there is also an opportunity in the NFL or CFL for Winn, who is accustomed to proving people wrong about his ability.
“People might laugh at him getting off the bus, but they’re crying when he gets back on it,” Buchanan said. “They think he’s too small, but all he does is run away from the bad guys with the football. Dayton has a lot of football left in him if someone just gives him a chance.”
Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.
Print Headline: Football takes Winn from Pea Ridge to Copenhagen