FOXBOROUGH — Chase Winovich is always working to be better. The first thing you see upon entering his house is a spring-loaded football mounted on his living room wall. The Patriots defensive end stops and punches it until his knuckles sting and his long blond hair flops in front of his face.
Winovich, 25, says he hits the ball at least 25 times a day, envisioning forcing a fumble and contributing to a Patriots win.
“To be honest, if you’re pissed off, you punch it a little more,” he says with a smile.
Today is a good day filled with laughter and energy.
Winovich and his “Team Wino” have been working for eight hours on the latest episode of “Wino on a Quest,” his new YouTube show. There’s a producer at his house, and the rest of the crew is working via FaceTime, adhering to coronavirus guidelines.
A blue-collar Pennsylvania native, Winovich is on a “Quest” to learn about New England.
“The premise of the show is to connect the best people, places, and ideas of a particular region and bring them together in a fun and informative way,” he says.
In episodes shot before the pandemic, Winovich scoured the North End searching for the best cannolis and spicy meatballs, milked a cow in Vermont, slid down a fireman’s pole in Boston, and rode a snowmobile at Killington in Vermont.
The introductory episode, “Year in Review," includes a video of the 2019 draft-day call he got from Bill Belichick.
“This day changed my life, but to Coach Belichick, it honestly sounded like he was just ordering pizza,” says Winovich.
Later, when a photo appears of him at Michigan meeting fellow alumnus Tom Brady (who graduated 19 years earlier), Winovich shouts with glee.
Asked if he ever said that to Brady’s face, Winovich smiles.
“One time in practice, it was toward the end of the season,'' he says. "I was in coverage on scout team and I dropped across on a crossing route and I picked him off. I felt pretty bad about it because, man, Tom’s my friend, like he’s not going to like me anymore.
“I was real worried about it and he looked pretty sad after. I’m sure he was just evaluating how it happened so it didn’t happen in the game. You know, he’s better than anyone at that.
"And then I saw him in the locker room after practice and he comes up to me. I just put my hand around him and put my head on his shoulders. And I just said, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, Dad. I was a bad son.’
"And he just looked at me and said, ‘It’s OK. I’m glad it happened. But it never happened.’ And he just walked away. He could have been upset about it, but the fact is that he loved it.”
Making the best of it
The 6-foot-3-inch, 250 pound Winovich had a stellar rookie season last year. He is one of only two players in the Belichick era to record at least 5½ sacks and 10 QB hits as a rookie, according to Boston Sports Info. The other player is Chandler Jones.
Winovich, who shares a duplex house in Foxborough with housemates and his cuddly 6-month-old Samoyed puppy Zeus, does yoga, weights, canoeing, and multiple other exercises to keep in shape after rehabbing from hernia surgery in February.
He has a Peloton bike in the living room and a picture of Bruce Lee on the wall. On his second-floor landing, there’s a map of the human muscular system, exercise mats, and a space heater that glows red when he starts stretching at 6 a.m. during the season.
He says the stay-at-home directive affects him like everybody else, but he’s trying to make the best of it. In the morning, he devours a huge stack of chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup and a side order of eggs. In the afternoon, he gets takeout delivered from Chipotle, takes a quick canoe ride, and negotiates the social distancing needed to please the AAA driver who requested a selfie before he towed Winovich’s mother’s old car. (Winovich had surprised her with a new one.)
He also was thrilled when a case of cherry juice arrived in his driveway.
“It’s great for sore muscles and reducing inflammation,” he says.
He also uses an Iron Neck device that fits like a crown upon his head and through resistance builds the neck muscles.
Winovich has always stood out in a crowd and says he wants to be a Patriot “for as long as I can.’'
He’s a throwback from Jefferson Hills, Pa., outside Pittsburgh. His great-grandfather labored in the steel mills and his grandmother worked a slew of jobs to make ends meet.
When he was at Michigan, teammates challenged him to get a date with Madonna’s daughter. In an e-mail exchange, he told Lourdes he was interested in attending the School of Music, and would like to discuss it with her over dinner.
He says he and Lourdes had a great time.
“You know, I went on a date with Madonna’s daughter, but I’m the one that brought the security for me,” he says with a laugh.
Winovich is definitely eclectic. Some of the recent books he’s read include “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.
He likes everything from classical music to Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and Sinatra on his turntable.
Winovich’s show is a little bit Gronk, mixed in with a dash of Thor, the influence of the late Anthony Bourdain, and a drop of Monty Python. He also has a philanthropic side, once dying his hair orange to support childhood cancer research, picking up the meal debts of his high school alma mater, and linking his second “Wino” show to a “Feed the Frontline” fund-raiser. On Wednesday, he sent 100 meals to essential workers at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He knows that by putting himself in the spotlight with his YouTube show, he’s open for criticism.
“All it does is put you on the hook,'' he says. “If I don’t do well now this year, it’s a really bad look for me, because now it looks like I was just out there making YouTube videos instead of working out. It couldn’t be farther from the truth, considering anybody that knows me will testify that I spent my entire days just scheming up ways to improve.”
This offseason, his workout partner was quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
“I think he’s awesome. And he’s a great quarterback,” Winovich says. “He’s very consistent. He’s always got the same even-keel kind of attitude. I have a blast working out with him.”
Optimistic about 2020
Immediately recognizable by his long bleached-blond flowing locks, Winovich hasn’t had a haircut since February, and he now has pandemic dark roots.
“The bleached hair definitely served its purpose and was a lot of fun,'' he says. "But there’s something to be said for just having your hair the color that it was kind of meant to be.”
The 2019 third-round draft pick is excited to be reunited with a couple of former Michigan teammates, linebacker Josh Uche and offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, who were recently drafted by the Patriots.
Uche will look to help fill the void left by departed linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
“I think he’s pretty great,” says Winovich. “I just know from my experiences working out and pulling sleds with Uche we had great competitions. We were always battling back and forth and pushing each other. He’s a great competitor and I think he’s going to fit in really well here."
His advice for Uche is simple.
“Just be a sponge,” he says. “Don’t waste this opportunity that you’re given, because it’s definitely not a redshirt year by any means.
“It’s already going to be painful because you’re going to be in a new city. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to compete and to learn the new playbook."
Winovich also has been outspoken about the loneliness a rookie can experience.
“It’s tough playing in the NFL for several reasons,'' he says. "But amongst those, it’s like people are constantly being traded or cut. It’s tough to really form relationships with people because you never know where they’re going to go.”
He is optimistic about the first Patriots season in two decades without Brady.
“I really trust Coach Belichick, the genius that he is,'' Winovich says. “You’ve got to trust the process. I think if anybody in this world has kind of earned that respect with all those Super Bowls, it is Coach Belichick.”
What if the Patriots were to meet Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl and all of a sudden he makes a move and has Brady within his grasp? Would he hesitate a fraction of a second? Go easy on an old friend?
“There’s a part of me that would say I respect the guy so much that maybe I would just gently let him down,'' Winovich says. "But there’s another part of me that knows that Tom wouldn’t want me to hold back. I think Tom would take that as an insult. He would want me to hit him.”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.