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ROB WOODS: Academics, athletics complete experience for Iowan

Kevin Brennan | Friday, November 18, 2005

Charlie Weis likes to give Rob Woods a hard time. Carrying a 3.95 grade point average in mechanical engineering, Woods is one of the top students on the football team. And his head coach makes sure he doesn’t forget it.

“When you’ve got a 3.9-something you can’t really make a mistake,” Woods said. “The first thing out of [Weis’] mouth is, ‘You know for a smart guy you are pretty stupid. You’re pretty dumb.'”

Woods said one of the smartest decisions he ever made was deciding to walk on to the Notre Dame football. Coming out of Atlantic High School in Atlantic, Iowa, the 6-foot-2 wide receiver was not recruited at all to play in college. Woods was leery of trying to walk on because he felt he might not be talented enough.

“I almost ruled it out because I was a pretty practical guy, and I didn’t think I was good enough,” Woods said.

Encouraged by his high school coach, Woods contacted the Notre Dame coaching staff in December of his senior year of high school and began plans to walk on. When he arrived on campus for freshman orientation in August, Woods went through a combine tryout and began practicing with the team.

“They never really told me I was on the team,” Woods said. “I figured it out eventually.”

Woods embraced the life of a walk-on, viewing his contribution to the team as a service. Woods worked hard as a wide receiver on scout team offenses to prepare the first team defense for each upcoming opponent. Eventually, the coaches began to recognize Woods’ contributions.

“After a couple of years of showing up every day and giving that effort, they give you a look,” Woods said. “When you get that opportunity, you’ve got to seize it and do everything you can to never let it go.”

For Woods, that opportunity came midway through the 2004 season when the coaching staff started inserting him on the first kickoff coverage team in practice. Former coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff wanted to see if Woods could hold his own with the scholarship players.

“For a couple of practices, I was literally spotlighted every rep,” Woods said. “So it’s kind of a pressure packed situation.”

Woods apparently convinced the coaches he was worthy. On Oct. 23, Woods saw his first action on kickoff coverage against Boston College. He went on to record three tackles on special teams during the season.

Woods received an even greater thrill this fall at the end of training camp. Weis called Woods into his office and told the senior that he had earned a scholarship.

“I was the most surprised guy in the world,” Woods said. “It just blew me away. They said I was smiling from ear to ear.

“It’s definitely a great gift from Coach Weis and the University.”

In 2005, Woods has continued to contribute on special teams. And in the Oct. 1 contest at Purdue, Woods finally broke through at wide receiver, recording his first career reception in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s blowout win.

“That was really kind of a surreal feeling,” Woods said of the catch. “I consider myself a big white stiff from Iowa – nobody that should be catching a ball or trying to make a play, that’s for sure.”

Woods knows his football days are numbered, and he is now concentrating on finding a job in engineering.

“I’ve gone through some interviews at this point and had some success so I’m going to weigh out my options,” Woods said. “I definitely have the self-awareness to know that I’m not NFL material unless I gain about 50 pounds and lose about half a second on my 40 [yard dash time].”

Woods will be sad to leave football, but he is proud of all that he has accomplished at Notre Dame.

“If you had talked to me four years ago about what I was doing at this point both academically and on the football field, I would have laughed at you,” Woods said. “It’s definitely an exciting time.”