The motto at Johns Hopkins University is, “Veritas vos liberabit.” The English translation is, “The Truth Will Set You Free.”
Huron High School’s Aaron Winston didn’t put in all the work – both on the football field and in the classroom – to accept second best. He had a goal and felt in his heart and in his vision of the future that his goal was worth waiting for even if it meant missing out on other excellent opportunities.
“Aaron passed on several other scholarship opportunities while waiting to be accepted into Johns Hopkins University, a risk Aaron was willing to take because he knew it could lead to great rewards in the future,” said Huron football coach Antaiwn Mack. “Just because you have high academic scores in high school doesn’t mean you’re going to get into Johns Hopkins.”
The Truth (and hard work and perseverance and commitment) Will Set Youth Free. And the truth was that Winston’s first choice was Johns Hopkins and he was willing to wait to find out if the feeling was mutual.
Johns Hopkins University, located in Baltimore, is an elite private-research institution on par with the likes of Duke, MIT, Georgetown and Ivy League schools. It also was the perfect fit for Winston – on and especially off the field.
“When I went and visited the campus in Baltimore, it just felt like it was where I was supposed to be,” says Winston. “I clicked right away with some of the guys on the team and really liked the coaching staff. That, coupled with it being one of the best academic and athletic options, just put it over the top for me.
“It is really well known in my area of interest, biomedical engineering, and they give you a lot of flexibility in exploring your academic interests. Although I had some other offers that really interested me like Butler, Case Western and some others, I could really see myself at Hopkins for four years, maybe even more if I decide to go to graduate school.”
Aaron, the son of Michele and Eric Winston, realizes that sports has a short shelf life and playing in the NFL is a longshot for even the best athletes. So, it was the other side of the coin that really flipped things in the direction of Johns Hopkins.
“For me a big part of it was to make sure I was thinking about my academic future as well as my athletic career,” he says. “Sports are great and amazingly fun, but they only last for a small portion of your life. So I wanted to make sure I set myself up to have the best possible college football experience while also allowing myself to be academically challenged and come out with a degree that will allow me to have a successful career.
“All of the schools that offered me scholarships were great opportunities and I appreciated them taking the time to recruit me, but I felt like Johns Hopkins had the best combination of what I was looking for, strong academics with access to research opportunities and a great football program.”
Winston will most likely end up in the backfield for the Blue Jays, who compete in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as members of the Centennial Conference.
“I believe I will be playing running back at Hopkins and maybe I’ll get split out to slot sometimes,” he said. “That’s what they recruited me to do and I don’t plan to disappoint. Every time I step out on the field I want to make an impact.”
He certainly made an impact at Huron, both on the field and in the classroom, where he had a 3.7 GPA and was part of the Rising Scholars program. He was primarily a running back for the River Rats but played wherever the team needed, which included linebacker, safety, kick returner and special teams.
Winston was Honorable Mention All-SEC his sophomore and senior years – he was injured his junior season. Following his senior year he was selected to play in the Legacy Football High School Senior All-Star Game.
“They selected me to play DB but asked me to move to RB after there was an injury,” Winston said. “I was fortunate to lead our team with two touchdowns and helped us get a victory.”
Victories were tough to come by during his career at Huron. The River Rats won just one game during his career – the season-opening win over Ecorse during his senior year and the first with Mack as the head coach. Obviously, ending the school’s 39-game losing streak was at the top of Huron’s highlight reel this past season. And Winston, who had four touchdowns and rushed for over 100 yards in the game, was a big reason for the victory.
“The game was a huge moment for all of us seniors who had been fighting for so long,” he said. “It felt great to snap (the streak) and get our first varsity win, especially since no one expected it. It was also probably one of the best games of my career.”
Winston said the losing was “definitely hard,” but this young man is a positive person who realizes that success is not only measured on a scoreboard.
“Even with all of the losses, Coach Mack continued to encourage us and we never stopped fighting and almost got one more win at the end of the season,” he said. “I know coach Mack will get the team ready to go and they’ll bounce back even better next year. We have some talented guys coming back that will lead the team.”
Winston is doing his part during these challenging days by staying home – but that hasn’t stopped him from working hard. There are goals still to be met and challenges to be faced.
“I’ve mostly been inside, but I can’t let that stop me from accomplishing my goals so I’ve been doing some smaller at-home workouts to make sure I stay in shape,” he says. “I have also been using the time to participate in some online meetings to learn more about what I can expect at Johns Hopkins while also getting to know some of my new teammates through social media. I have a few AP classes so I have also been trying to make sure I keep up with the work in those classes so I am ready for the AP exams.”
Coach Mack says he is “extremely happy for Aaron and his family.”
“Aaron deserves nothing but the best,” he said. “He’s a very hard-working young man who is tough and driven!”