Antoine Winfield Sr. stood 5- 8¾ and weighed 176 pounds when NFL teams were poking and prodding the Ohio State cornerback during the 1999 NFL Scouting Combine.
Somewhere back in the Buckeye State, Antoine Winfield Jr. was six months old and filled with the genes of a 5-9 tackling machine.
Wade Phillips, a pretty good judge of defensive talent, was Buffalo's head coach and vice president of football operations. He overlooked the elder Winfield's undersized stature and drafted him in the first round, 23rd overall.
Phillips' defensive coordinator was Ted Cottrell, who would later coach Winfield as Vikings defensive coordinator. Cottrell signed off on the pick the moment he turned the game film on.
"Pound for pound, one of the best tacklers I've ever seen," he said. "When he hits a guy, the guy goes down."
Winfield's size would be rounded up to 5-9, 180, where it remained through 14 NFL seasons, the last nine with the Vikings (2004-12). Of his 1,094 tackles, 935 were solo, ranking him 18th among all players since 1994, according to Pro Football Reference.
Twenty-one years after Senior's combine experience, Junior showed up to the combine as an All-America safety out of Minnesota. He, too, stood 5-9 but was a beefier 203 pounds.
There was talk that perhaps this undersized playmaker with the Gophers-leading 88 tackles and Big Ten-leading seven interceptions would be taken in the first round of the NFL draft in April. If so, he would have become the first defensive back shorter than 5-10 to go in the first round since his old man in 1999.
The Vikings had the chance to tie a little bow on that story line with the 31st overall pick. But General Manager Rick Spielman took cornerback Jeff Gladney.
"I wasn't really surprised," Winfield Jr. said this week. "They already have two good safeties right now. And I think I met with the DBs coach [Daronte Jones] probably, like, once. I don't think there was heavy interest with me."
The Buccaneers were OK with that. The next night, they took Winfield 45th overall. And all he's done through 12 games is win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September and play all but 14 of the 797 snaps on a defense that's top 10 in rushing yards allowed (first), yards allowed (seventh) and points allowed (eighth).
"Through 12 games, I would say I did an OK job," Winfield said. "I still feel like I need to get better in all areas. I feel like I need to create more takeaways. I've still got a long way to go. I've got a big four games coming up, so hopefully I can make something happen."
That playoff push for the Bucs (7-5) starts Sunday at home against the Vikings (6-6). And, yes, for the first time since 2003, Winfield Sr. will be rooting against the Vikings.
"For sure," Junior said. "A hundred percent."
Junior and Senior were talking about Sunday's game just the other night.
"We were watching film together, and I was like, 'Isn't it crazy that I'm playing against the Vikings?' " Junior said. "And we kind of laughed about it. But I grew up a Vikings fan, watching my dad play up there. I've always loved the Vikings, watched pretty much all their games when I was growing up, so it's going to be a cool experience."
As a rookie, Senior had 62 tackles (60 solo) and two interceptions while starting only two of 16 games. Junior has 69 tackles (42 solo) — ranking third on the Bucs — with one interception, two sacks, a forced fumble and a game-winning pass defense on a two-point conversion attempt when the Bucs led the Giants by two with under a minute left in Week 8.
At 43, Senior is only 40 days older than Junior's quarterback, Tom Brady. One of Senior's 27 career picks came against Brady in his 11th career start in 2001.
"Senior was a great player, obviously — tough, competitive, a really good tackler for a corner," Zimmer said. "And his son really is very similar. Just playing different spots."
Junior said the biggest similarity he sees is the tackling instincts, and the willingness.
"We're both not the biggest guys, but we like to hit," Junior said. "I feel like it flows natural to both of us. He played and just naturally did it, and I feel like it's the same with me."