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December 12, 2005 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-12-12

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6B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - December 12, 2005

unior LaMarr Woodley certainly has made his mark on
Michigan football. Earlier this season, he thought he
had done all he could. Through seven games, Woodley
had five sacks and 14 tackles for loss. And according to
his mother, Janice Staples, Woodley believed it could
be time to head to the NFL. His rare combination of
strength, speed, quickness and tenacity seem well suited
for the "League." But an arm injury limited his playing
time at the end of the year and has him coming back for
his senior year, ready to have his best season ever. And
Michigan coaches and fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
A two-year-old climbing out of his stroller during a softball game
shows the will to be an athlete at a young age.
It was a sign early on that Woodley was going to make his mark as
a competitor. When he was just a toddler, Woodley tagged along to his
mother's games. But one time, as Staples played, Woodley decided he
wanted to join in on the fun. He scrambled out of the chair and tried to get
onto the field. Staples knew then her son was going to be an athlete.
"He could catch and play really well," Staples said.
Growing up in Saginaw, Woodley let everyone know that he was a
child to be reckoned with.
Whether it was football, baseball or, his first love, basketball, Woodley
tore up the competition. Many, including Woodley, even believed that
hoops would be his ticket to stardom.
"Everybody thought he was going to be a basketball player," high
school teammate and current Michigan running back Jerome Jackson
said. "He put up a double-double every night. He's just an awesome ath-
lete. If he would've kept grow-
ing, he'd probably be doing
that."
But it wasn't to be.
Said Woodley of when he I think he
knew had to quit: "When I
stopped growing, and I was
only 6-foot-2. I ain't no point tow ard leav
guard."
But luckily for him, he was N FL),W hen
just as good at football as he =
was at basketball. And Staplesu
could tell that there was some-
thing special about her son.
"Middle school, seventh or
eighth grade, we knew it," Sta-
ples said of his football talents.
"I saw him make a lot of big - Janice Staples
hits, and I knew he was going
to be a good hitter."
Jackson has known how destructive of a force Woodley is for quite
some time. When the two were young, Woodley opened holes for Jackson
while playing fullback.
"He used to block for me in middle school," Jackson said. "He's been
a terror his whole life."
Woodley added: "They moved me to fullback, and I enjoyed doing it.
I didn't care about getting the ball; I just wanted to knock someone down
and let (Jackson) get in for the scores."
From then on, Jackson and Woodley have been like brothers.
Since seventh grade, the two have forged a bond that has lasted through
middle school and through college. It was planned that way.
In one game against Romeo High School, Woodley remembers being
on the punt return team.
" was always on the outside of the wall, catching people on the blind-
side," Woodley said. "One time, I caught a guy and it knocked the wind
out of me, I hit him so hard."
Said Jackson: "He did something amazing every game."
Woodley's exploits on the field began to garner him the attention that
fellow teammate Charles Rogers received when Woodley was a fresh-
man. When Woodley saw what he could attain, he knew that football was
his passion.
"Once I saw Charles Rogers explode, taking visits and the hype, I told
myself that's something I wanted to do," Woodley said.
So the 250-pounder continued to make the same hits he had been
delivering since middle school.

/I

ed them that Michigan got the edge.
"I got comfortable down there,.with all the people I knew, but I got
close with coach Jackson," Woodley said. "You just got to go to a place
you're comfortable."
Luckily for the Wolverines, Woodley decided he wanted to terrorize
opponents as a Michigan man and not a Spartan.
Although Woodley was content when he visited Ann Arbor, things
were a little different once he enrolled at the University. It wasn't as easy
making the big hits and plays that he did in high school. Almost everyone
he was playing against did similar things before college. Now, he wasn't
the only one hitting opponents so hard that they couldn't come back in
the game. He wasn't used to not being the best.
With this weighing on him, his first year was difficult, and Woodley
even contemplated quitting.
"I could go on and on about that," Woodley said of his first year. "When
you're a freshman, it's always a struggle because you don't know what
you're getting yourself into. It's a big jump from high school to college."
Everyone has to make that jump, but, as a highly touted freshman,
Woodley didn't realize how much of an adjustment it would be.
The practices were not as easy, and everything seemed different.
"Practice was longer, you were waking up early, watching more film
and practicing twice a day," Woodley said. "You really weren't at home;
you were in a hotel room. You were basically on lockdown."
Neither Woodley nor Jackson knew how to handle this transition. Both
now remember wanting to give up. Football was no longer fun for them.
"Once you come to something like this, you start questioning your-
self," Woodley said. "You wonder if football is really for you, and if you
can do something else. Those
things run through your mind
even though you really don't
want to."
W as leaning Fortunately for coach
Lloyd Carr and Michigan
r the fans, Woodley was able to get
gfor tthrough the early trials and
tribulations - but not with-
e got hurt, it out the help of his teammate
Ce..+ go yt Jackson.
Having Jackson around was
instrumental in Woodley's
adjusting to college and Divi-
sion I football. Woodley cred-
its Jackson for always being
there for him.
, Woodley's mother "Usually when guys come
to school, they worry about
who's their roommate and
whether they can trust him," Woodley said. "This is a guy I've been
going to school with since seventh grade, so I didn't have to worry about
anything like that. And I was always comfortable talking to him about
my problems, and him too. Plus, the whole room was Saginaw High."
With Jackson by his side, Woodley blossomed in his first year as a
Wolverine. Woodley began to have fun again and realized that it wasn't
as difficult as he thought.
"Now as a junior, it's like a cakewalk, and I look back and wonder why
I was crying and why I wanted to quit," Woodley said with a laugh.
After his adjustment, the accolades started to pile up. They included
being named All-Big Ten second team by the coaches as a sophomore.
That same year, the team gave him the Richard Katcher Award as Mich-
igan's top defensive lineman/outside linebacker.
This season was a bit more difficult for Woodley. He suffered an arm injury
that kept him from playing much of a role in the last four games. But before
the injury, he showed enough ability that fans and presumably coaches were
worried about him leaving early. His stats and playmaking skills had every-
one taking notice. Senior captain and fellow defensive lineman Pat Massey
noted that Woodley brought an attitude and intensity that his teammates
could thrive on. His combination got him noticed by the NFL.
Even Sta'ples thought he was going to go to leave school early before
the injury.
"I think he was leaning toward leaving," Staples said. "When he got
hurt it put a damper on that. Plus, I think he wants to play one more year.
They've got everyone coming back basically."
But after thinking about what he has done and what he wants to do, she
+1 1- x..11 _.,01 1 4 x^An oro

S

Wonderful Woodley

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