Winston DeLattiboudere returns to Gophers as defensive line coach

Winston DeLattiboudere took the practice field as the University of Minnesota football team started spring workouts at Athletes Village, and it probably felt like he never left.

It wasn’t that long ago that DeLattiboudere was a defensive end at the University of Minnesota, helping lead the Gophers to a historic 11-2 season in 2019. He played for five seasons with the Gophers, the last four with PJ Fleck, and had 83 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 51 games and 36 career starts.

Not bad for someone defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said "had no business starting four years in the Big Ten.

"He’s the ultimate over-achiever. How did he do it? Because of his how, because of his intangibles, because of his character, because of his work ethic and how he responded to adversity," Rossi said. "He’s really the poster child for what the program is."

DeLattiboudere wanted to test the NFL waters after his college career was over. Rossi told him to give him a call if it didn’t work out. About a month later, the phone rang. DeLattiboudere got a Master’s degree in Youth Development and Leadership at Minnesota, and got into coaching.

He started in 2020 as a graduate assistant on the defensive line at Charlotte. He spent the next year in the same role at Oregon. In 2022, he was the defensive line coach at the University of Akron.

DeLattiboudere is now back where it all started, the defensive line coach and newcomer coordinator for Fleck and the Gophers. He said his early conversations with Fleck were both about football, and how he’s grown since his playing days.

"It was different from being a player in the sense that this is business, this is serious. Now I’m transitioning from a point where I was ‘the guy’ on the roster, now I have to raise and groom and continue to forge the guys on this roster," DeLattiboudere said.

He’s now in charge of a group that includes Danny Striggow, Jalen Logan-Redding, Kyler Baugh, Deven Eastern, Jah Joyner and Darnell Jefferies among others. DeLattiboudere had his traditional energy speaking to reporters on Thursday, and it’s been the same at practice.

DeLattiboudere joked that Fleck told him he knew he’d be a coach before it became a reality.

"He’s not too far removed from being a player, which is crazy. When I watch him coach, it energizes me. You would think Winston has been coaching 30 years," Fleck said. One of the best attributes you can have as a coach is do your players want to play for you? I know this, in the three months he’s been here, our guys want to play for him and there’s been a completely different energy shift."

He lived Fleck’s standard as a player in 2019. Now it’s his job to translate the current roster with upholding, and increasing that standard after three nine-win seasons in the last four years.

"Embrace your past to create your future. I love it, but something that I tell my room all the time is ‘Hey, the price went up. So your job now is to be better than we were.’ It’s really fun being able to say ‘Hey, I sat in those seats, and we’re going to get even more out of you than they got out of me,’" DeLattiboudere said.

Fleck wanted him back enough that they gave him a "Newcomer Coordinator" title. He’s in charge of freshman and transfers, helping get them acclimated to the team and culture.

"It’s my job to bridge everybody into the culture. This week it was helping guys find a barbershop or a barber that they wanted to come here and cut their hair," DeLattiboudere said. "Just helping them get used to our culture, the way we do things and consistently building them up. I’m like a freshman or transfer ‘head coach’ when it comes to going over all those detailed things."