Former Cowboy Ready To Get Back on Field

Artrell Woods can probably tell you not only the number of days but also the number of hours until the Central Oklahoma football team kicks off its season on Saturday, Aug. 28. The former OSU wide receiver has played in just five games the past three seasons, and is eager to get back on the football field. recently caught up with the ex-Cowboy to talk about his college football future.

The 6-1, 205-pound Woods says he has put behind him the terrible weight-lifting accident that occurred nearly three years ago (July 13, 2007), and is looking forward to a new start since transferring to play at Central Oklahoma, an NCAA Division II program in Edmond, Okla.

Woods lost his balance while attempting to step down off a box with a barbell of weights resting on his shoulders. The former Cowboy landed awkwardly on the floor of the weight room with the weighted bar on top of him. Although the incident did not look bad when it first occurred it soon became apparent that it was a tragic event when Woods was unable to move his right leg.

Just months after being the star of the 2007 spring game with two touchdown catches, a two-point conversion and 111 receiving yards not only was Woods' future of ever playing football in serious doubt but more importantly was the issue of him ever walking again when he suffered the serious spinal cord injury. Thanks to the quick thinking of OSU trainer Rob Hunt and his staff and surgery less than 24 hours after the accident the 19-year-old Woods was standing a day later and was walking with the aid of a walker just two days after the accident.

Woods returned to the OSU team in 2008, catching just one pass for seven yards against Iowa State on Nov. 1, 2008. He played in just five games in 2008 and decided to leave the program after the season. He remained at OSU as a student last fall but transferred to UCO in an attempt to rejuvenate his college football career. But he missed spring drills because of an Achilles injury but says he is fully recovered and ready to hit the field when the Bronchos host Pittsburg (Kan.) State on Aug. 28 at Wantland Stadium in Edmond.

Woods will wear the same No. 83 jersey for the Bronchos that he had for three years as a Cowboy, and will be classified as a junior in eligibility.

Here is our conversation with Woods from early June:

What are you doing these days?
Woods: I transferred to UCO (Central Oklahoma in Edmond), and so far it's looking pretty good.

Do you feel like you're back to 100 percent physically?
Woods: Probably better. I'm pretty sure I'm better. Not only physically but also the mental aspect of the game, but definitely physically.

Are you as fast as you were before the back injury?
Woods: I haven't checked yet. I'm pretty sure I'm faster but I haven't got out there and checked yet.

How long have you been at UCO?
Woods: I enrolled this past spring semester.

What did you do last fall?
Woods: I was actually still at OSU this past fall.

How difficult was it to still be at OSU but not be playing football?
Woods: It was one of the worst feelings I've ever had because I didn't feel like I was part of the team. I felt like I was all by myself, all alone, away from home, (and) couldn't talk to my old teammates whenever I wanted to, and stuff like that.

How excited are you to be getting a chance to play football again?
Woods: I'm more excited than I've ever been. All I want to do is get back on the (football) field. I'm out on the field playing catch every day.

,I>Why did you decide to leave OSU?
Woods: It was just overwhelming for me being there. Things just didn't quite turn out the way I wanted them to. I just needed a change of scenery. It was still hard to lift weights down there. It just didn't feel right. It didn't feel the same. But I definitely left under good terms, and still love everybody there – the coaches, players, everybody – and still talk to a couple of people. It's like I just needed a change of scenery.

What do you expect from yourself this fall since you've only played in five games the past three seasons?
Woods: I don't think too many people believe that I can still play how I used to but I believe that I can do it. I'm not going to give up. As long as I have my hands and feet I'm going to try to play football somewhere.

Are you looking forward to getting out on the field and getting hit again?
Woods: No, not really because every time I catch it, I don't plan on getting hit. I haven't really thought about it.

Have you set any individual goals for yourself?
Woods: Not really, I just want to be there and be in the mix, be involved and catch some passes and catch some touchdowns, but nothing really as far as stat-wise or personal goals.

How much different do you think it's going to be playing on the Division II level after playing major college football for several years?
Woods: I really haven't thought about it. I just look at it like I'm going out there to play football again, no matter who it is or where they're from I'm just trying to make the plays to help my team win. So I really don't like at it like D-II or D-I. I just want to play as long as I can play, and as long as I think I can play.

Do you ever think of that day three years ago when the accident occurred?
Woods: It's long gone. To me it wasn't really football related so I really don't think about it like that.

Have you ever attempted that lift again when you slipped and the weights fell on top of you?
Woods: No. There are plenty of alternatives. I don't want to risk it again.

What have you learned through all of this?
Woods: That you can't take life for granted, you can't take anything for granted. Too many wake up every day and take life for granted. I've learned to be happy, to be optimistic, and that's important to always get back up after you fall.

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