J.D. Woods Grows from Past, Becomes Leader for WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

J.D. Woods Grows from Past, Becomes Leader for WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

 

Of the three receivers to catch a touchdown pass for West Virginia in its season opener, only one had never known what it felt like to be in the end zone.

In fact, for K.J. Myers, it was the first time he'd ever felt a football in his hands at all in actual game action.

The enormity of the moment and what it meant to Myers was evident as the redshirt freshman sprang to his feet after pulling in a fourth quarter fade from backup quarterback Paul Millard and jumped with his teammates, celebrating the accomplishment.

He pointed up to the stands, likely at whoever was sitting in his seats for the game, as the rest of the Mountaineers waited to mob him on his way to the team bench.

J.D. Woods, looking on from the sideline, had to have been struck by the image: a player in his first college action making his first career reception in the blue of the WVU end zone. A touchdown the only time the ball had ever been thrown his way. This is familiar to Woods because he too had the same experience in 2010.

"I told him, ‘Welcome to the club,'' Woods said after the game.

For the remainder of his sophomore season after that touchdown grab, Woods pulled in just 17 receptions and never once crossed the goal line again. In fact, his next score didn't come until this past Saturday.

But Woods, now in his senior season, is ready for increased action. His play on the field and his demeanor in the locker room continues to give him that opportunity.

"I can only work hard in practice and in the game, hopefully I'll have a good outcome. I believe in myself," Woods said after the game.

He is not alone in the faith he holds in himself. The Naples, Fla. native's teammates seem to have always known what he was capable of doing with the ball in the air and heading in his direction. His attitude for going on five seasons now has been one of optimism and excitement, always ready to encourage those around him to find success while fighting for his own.

Woods has watched as the younger Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey came to his meeting room and became stars not only in Morgantown but across the landscape of college football. He does not try to be them, but he sees their accomplishments and pushes to follow their path.

In the time since Dana Holgorsen arrived at WVU, the head coach has expressed his desire to see Woods become more consistent. He needed to show it with his play on the field as well as with his work in the classroom.

It seemed a never-ending struggle, but when the season neared, it was obvious that Woods had distanced himself from the competition and would have the opportunity on game day that he wanted all these years.

So on Saturday, he finished with seven receptions for 77 yards and one touchdown. Only Bailey showed better receiving numbers against Marshall.

"That's what he's been doing since he started practicing well," says WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "We were hoping that it would carry over into the game and it did. He's got a great attitude, he's playing hard, he's playing fast and he adds a different element when he's fast, so that's good."

The game featured touchdowns from eight different players. It would have been easy for Woods to get lost in the shuffle or contribute little in the grand scheme of things, but instead, he stood out.

"Geno [Smith] just told me to get open. I'm going to get open and catch that ball," Woods says simply. "I see it come my way, hey, it's time to make a play. Let's get it."

If you leave an interview with Woods and don't hear some variation of "make a play," then you likely interviewed the wrong person. It's all that is on his mind.

He wants to make a play. Not for himself, but for those around him.

Maybe there was a time when Woods thought he could only make plays by getting to the highest point before the defender and coming down with a highlight reel catch. Perhaps that mindset led to part of his inconsistency in practice.

But that is no longer the approach he takes, and his coaches are noticing the improvement.

"The touchdown run that [Andrew] Buie had, J.D. was knocking his guy through the end zone," offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh says. "Things like that, when you see that, you get excited as a coach."

Woods has already eclipsed his junior season stats in just one game. If he continues to work, and continues to be targeted, he could be poised for a special season. Yet, when you ask him what his goals are, he points to his teammates and what he can do to help them.

"I just try to keep guys' heads in it because I know how easy it is to get down on yourself," Woods says, drawing from experience. "A lot of guys don't think they're down on themselves, but you can tell in their motions and the way they career themselves, so I just try to keep them motivated each and every step."

Woods has been there. He has felt the highs like Myers experienced Saturday, but also the lows.

His plan is to leave it all behind and focus now only on what lies before him, and none of what has already transpired to get him there.

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