A family affair

College football experts are calling them the most athletic sibling trio in the game. And, the Cowboys have dibs. Rashaun, an All-America candidate at wide receiver; D'Juan, the next Rashaun; and Donovan - one of the best high school QB's in the state - all have orange blood in their veins. Who taught them what they know? The biggest brother of them all, Gary.

**This is the first of a two-part feature on the Woods family.**

 

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Juana Woods had a philosophy for her children as they were growing up. With four boys and two girls, it was hard to keep track of everyone and make sure they weren't in any trouble.

"I had this theory when I was raising them: If I kept them busy, they wouldn't get into any trouble," Juana said. "So I kept them from one sport to another — sports, homework, church and school, and they were too busy and tired to get in any trouble."

Three of her boys are outstanding athletes with great character, so did her theory work?

"It seemed to work," Juana said.

Not to count out her other children — Roslin, the oldest, lives in Dallas where she went to school at Texas Women's University. Gary, the next in line, was an athlete much like his brothers. He went to high school at Millwood from 1984-87 where he was a linebacker. Upon graduation, he attended Langston University on an athletic scholarship and played four years as a defensive back. Then there is Nikia, the youngest of the family. Nikia is a sophomore at Millwood High School, where she is a cheerleader.

"She doesn't really play any sports," Gary said of Nikia. "She enjoys being a student, the high school life and all of its experiences. She's taken a little bit different path. She doesn't play sports like the rest of the boys. But she's enjoying life just the same."

The rest of the stories, you've probably heard. Rashaun is one of the top wide receivers in the country. He's making a strong push for many prestigious postseason awards at the end of this season. D'Juan is also a wide receiver and has been compared to Rashaun in many aspects. Their builds are almost identical, their running style — eerily similar. Cowboys coach Les Miles once described it as "the twilight zone" when they lined up in practice next to each other. Donovan is the highly-touted high school athlete who excels in many sports. He is leading the Millwood Falcons in their push for a third straight 2A football state championship.

Donovan is the youngest of the four brothers, so most people might assume that he would get picked on often. But Donovan said he only really had to deal with the smaller nuisances.

"No, just whenever we had to do something scary," Donovan said about being picked on. "When we went exploring in the woods and stuff, they always made me go first. Other than that, well, I guess they always made me get the basketball out from under the truck.

"You know, little stuff like that because they thought they were too big to do that kind of stuff, and I was just trying to get in on the action."

And there was always some kind of athletic action to be found at the Woods family house. Juana kept Rashaun, D'Juan and Donovan busy jumping from sport to sport. They were always playing football, baseball, basketball or running track. In fact, Juana thought the boys would gravitate toward baseball as they got older.

"They were excellent baseball players," Juana said. "We sort of thought they would go towards baseball. But, baseball and track ran into each other, and they had to make a decision on which one they were going to stay in, so they stuck with track.

"They played everything. I kept them busy."

But if they weren't busy playing sports, you could probably find them in the great outdoors, fishing or hunting.

"They always liked outdoors stuff. And that's because their dad likes outdoor stuff," Juana said. "They're just outdoorsmen, sportsmen, they do pretty much anything."
If you couldn't find the Woods brothers in the outdoors or playing sports, you'd have one last place to look: church. The Woods made certain their children were at church every Sunday.

"Even though we play football, we still have to get up and make it to Sunday School," Donovan said. "Dad made sure we'd wake up for church."

Which is no surprise, considering their father.

Lawrence Woods grew up in East Texas on a farm with three brothers. When he wasn't busy doing chores around the farm, he was playing basketball with his brothers. And if he wasn't doing those things, his parents made certain he was in a church. His mother sang in the choir, and his dad was a Sunday School teacher.

"We owned some property and were farmers and raised a few cattle and so forth," Lawrence said. "We were kind of country kids. The basis for the kind of fellowship that we are experiencing right now was laid during those years. We didn't realize that was what our mother and father were doing. They were sort of training us up the way we should go in hopes that when we became mothers and fathers that we would continue to promote that kind of relationship in our families.

"I credit them by the grace of God that they were committed to raising us up into respect for our brother and sisters and so forth."

After Lawrence graduated from college, he found a job in Oklahoma and moved to what he would eventually call his "second home." At first he had a hard time adjusting to the climate and the different culture, but he met Juana and was changed. They've been together for almost 40 years, which is easy to understand, considering that Juana was raised in an identical environment.

"My wife's side of the family, ironically, was raised in that same kind of environment," Lawrence said. "It was natural for us to keep them active. The kids enjoy participating in competitive sports. They like to play, I guess is what I'm saying. It was just kind of natural, and then after they finished playing outside and what have you, if they weren't involved in some structured sports, they'd come inside and do their homework and then it was time to go to bed. And then on Sundays it was church time, they knew that is what we do on Sundays.

"It was part of our life and became part of theirs. They grew up with that perspective, and it has been their way of life."
Oklahoma State fans have one man to thank for Rashaun's accomplishments. Juana's dad, Henry Langston, got the Woods brothers involved in athletics. After he passed away, Gary — who is 11 years older than Rashaun — picked up where he left off.

"My grandfather was at every game," Donovan said. "He would never sit around, he'd stand next to the fence. Besides Gary, he got us started in athletics and things like that. I learned a lot from him."

Gary used his experience at Langston to help his brothers achieve more than he had. During the summers he would show his brothers techniques he had learned. He would come home and watch Rashaun play little league. He considered one of his major gifts as being a coach.

"Donovan and all of his brothers were beneficiaries of what he learned when he played college football up at Langston University," Lawrence said. "He has passed a lot of that knowledge on to them since they were small. That has been real beneficial. It has helped them to compete at a little bit higher level maybe than some kids who had not been exposed to that kind of learning."

But Gary was more than a coach; he was also a brother. Since there was such a large age difference, Gary grew up baby-sitting his younger brothers.

"As the other boys were born, I just continued to be the older brother, and I took care of them and baby-sat them when my parents weren't around," Gary said. "Because of the age difference, I'm kind of like, not just a big brother, but in some ways a big brother slash kind of a father. I care for them and look after them the same way I look after my own children — I have three of my own.

"I've always been responsible for looking after them. I always try to do what I know my parents would want me to do, so that's the way I've always tried to mentor them and be a part of their lives."

Sports just happened to be a large part of their lives because they were always available.

"Sports was the thing we did to get away," D'Juan said. "There was nothing else to do, we always had a ball. We could always play sports."

Sports were a large part of their children's lives, so it became a large part of Lawrence and Juana's lives.

"Our family is very supportive," Donovan said. "It's been like that ever since little league. When we had a game, we always had them there whether it was mom, dad, aunts or uncles, anybody would show up there."

Not only was their immediate family at games, but their extended family often found time to make it to games as well. At Donovan's football game on Friday, he had a crowd of supporters. Donovan thinks he got a lot of his character from the people that surrounded him as he was growing up.

"We get a lot of our character from my mom and dad," Donovan said. "But we take some things from all of our family because they're always over at mom's and dad's."
A family atmosphere extended from the home to sporting events and even to church, Gary said.

"We were all right there in church together," Gary said. "We were all involved in sports together. Whenever I had a game, the little boys would be were there to watch and support me. Those things were family events. When the little boys had a game, we all turned out to watch their game. We all would watch them. That's just the way it's been. Even in high school, you know, I don't know if you had an opportunity to see — grandparents. We're all there at high school football games. OSU games alike, we're there.

"Because we know that the one constant thing is family. We believe in it, and it is a major part of our lives."

Family was a large part of Lawrence and Juana's lives when they were growing up. They have brought that tradition into their own lives, and they hope their children hold the same values.

"They are what you'd call normal kids," Lawrence said of his children. "They enjoyed the things kids do. We tried to maintain a wholesome environment for them so that they could grow up and enjoy their childhood. Hopefully, they would go on to become successful parents themselves one day.

"That's kind of what we tried to do."


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