Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Winters Can Take the Heat

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Winters Can Take the Heat

Article excerpt

FLORHAM PARK -- The molten steel burned hot, glowing a fluorescent shade of orange.

Steam rose off it in thick sheets as it was poured, filling the air with the acrid smell of metal.

Brian Winters would be summoned into the hellish cauldron that is a steel mill at any hour by his dad, whenever the brick lining of a ladle -- the equipment that pours molten metal -- needed to be replaced.

It meant trekking to mills throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania. It meant climbing into a two-story ladle or a furnace, with temperatures hovering near 400 degrees. And it meant having the Jets' 6-foot-4, 320-pound left guard lay 12- or 15-inch refractory bricks manufactured by the company employing his father, Bill.

"It was wild, wild to experience," said Winters, sitting at his locker after Friday's practice. "It was kind of breathtaking.

"It sort of looks like a war zone in there."

Having worked in the mills, the rookie lineman remains undaunted by the prospect of blocking Bengals All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins on Sunday in Cincinnati.

The third-round pick will make his fourth start, having supplanted Vlad Ducasse in Week 5. And Winters -- a Kent State product -- will do it in a return to his home state, playing about four hours from his hometown of Hudson, Ohio.

After all those long days in the mills, he has no fear of a challenge. He has been shaped by the ethos of the Rust Belt. And he carries its blue collar work ethic with him.

"My family's been in the steel mills forever," Winters said. "My grandfather was in there for his whole life. My dad's been in the business for 40-plus years. It's something I've been raised on."

The calls sometime would come from Bill Winters at 3 a.m. when his son was on summer break.

"Steel mills are not clean, pretty places," said Bill in a phone interview. "It can be a very dangerous environment. …

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