Woodyard has heart of a champion

Wesley Woodyard knows all about what it is like to be a champion. During his four year stay at LaGrange high school in LaGrange Georgia, Woodyard and teammates racked up two state championships in dominating fashion. His college years that would lie ahead offered a eerie and unfamiliar feeling, losing.

In 2004, Woodyard's freshman season at Kentucky, the Wildcats were in the midst of trying to fight off the effects of probation in which the NCAA had slapped down from the numerous recruiting violations during the Hal Mumme era. That season Woodyard reported to camp to play safety, yet the coaches were so thrilled with his football mentality they decided to make a linebacker out of his 6'1 200 lb frame.

The results are as what you expected, a lot of losses.

Playing linebacker in the SEC conference is a high accomplishment as it is, starting middle linebacker at 200 pounds as a true freshman is almost unheard of. That was a sign of how destroyed the program had become from probation. At any other school in the SEC there would have been a red shirt handed down, but not in Lexington.

Kentucky struggled to a 2-9 record.

That off season many fans and media speculated that Woodyard should move back to safety, but for a guy with a heart as big as the Wildcat fan base, he would demand of himself to prove his doubters wrong.

The following season, the results did not change as UK could only muster two more wins to the column to finish 3-8 for the season. Several times late in the year the players where asked about the future of head coach Rich Brooks as the fans had started to turn up the heat, tired of the losses. Woodyard was always there to give Brooks a vote of confidence.

It was at that moment that you could see the leader in him shine through.

We all know the rest of the story, in 2006 Kentucky would reach their first bowl game since 1999 and chalk up their first bowl victory in over two decades. In the process number sixteen in the blue and white would finish second in the Southeastern Conference in tackles with 122.

If you recruit players like Wesley Woodyard, they might not be the highest ranked, but when you find someone that loves the game of football, and at the same time is willing to work harder than anyone else, you are going to win football games sooner or later.

Years down the road when fans reflect on the rise from the depths of probation, people will remember Woodyard's name, and not for the success he helped breed, but for more of how he played the game.


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