Sammy Winder was a star running back for the University of Southern Mississippi before playing for nine seasons in the National Football League for the Denver Broncos. Born in the community of Pocahontas on 15 July 1959, Winder grew up in a large farming family and excelled as a Madison County athlete.
From 1978 to 1981 Winder attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he played tailback during some of the team’s most successful seasons. In 1980 and 1981 the Golden Eagles went to bowl games for the first time since the 1950s. Winder, playing for Coach Bobby Collins on a team quarterbacked by Reggie Collier, led the National Collegiate Athletic Association in touchdowns in 1980. He ended his college career as the second-leading rusher in school history, behind only 1970s star Ben Garry.
Selected by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round of the 1982 National Football League draft, Winder played for the team from 1982 through 1990. In his best year, 1984, he rushed for 1,153 yards and made the Pro Bowl, an honor he also received two years later. He retired with more than 5,400 rushing yards and 48 regular season touchdowns.
Winder was the primary running back for Broncos teams led by quarterback John Elway that went to the Super Bowl in 1987, 1988, and 1990. Winder scored three playoff touchdowns and in 1987 was a key performer in “The Drive,” a famous series of plays under late-game pressure that allowed Denver to defeat the Cleveland Browns and reach the Super Bowl. He was known in Denver for an end zone dance called the Mississippi Mud Walk.
In 1987 Winder founded a Jackson-area business, Winder Construction. As a native of rural Mississippi, Winder said, he “had always been around dirt,” so he bought a bulldozer and began clearing land for homes and businesses. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
- John W. Cox and Gregg Bennett, Rock Solid: Southern Miss Football (2004)
- Pro Football Reference website, www.pro-football-reference.com
- Rocky Mountain News (14 January 2006)
- Total Football Stats website, www.totalfootballstats.com