By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Chris Woodard can remember every T-NT game since he was little. That’s because he’s been at every one.
No matter if the site was NT or Tonawanda, Woodard was in the stands, dreaming of the day he might be a Lumberjack. That day has come and on Friday night when the lights go on at Clinton Small Stadium, all the eyes in the stands will now be focused on Woodard who’s been waiting for this moment his entire life.
“It’s definitely what I look forward to all year around,” he said. “It’s my favorite time of year. It starts on Monday and the whole week is just awesome, there is so much hype for the game … To go from watching in the stands to playing on the field — it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Woodard has been playing football since he was 6 years old. He doesn’t do much of anything else, in fact he said his life revolves around sports. If he’s not playing football he has a basketball in his hand, and if he’s not on the court he’s playing lacrosse. He has dedicated his life to becoming a great athlete and it’s all starting to pay off for the Jacks.
NT coach Tony Truilizio saw how special Woodard is from the first time he met the sophomore. At the team’s first meeting, Truilizio asked every player to go to a group based on position. When he called out the quarterback group one person raised their hand: Chris Woodard.
“Chris is probably the second (best) quarterback I’ve ever had,” Truilizio said, after Dave Drayton out of Riverside. “ … Chris is doing wonderful things with the talent around him whereas Drayton had a ton of talent around him.”
Woodard is 6-foot-4 and a dual-threat quarterback. He has a cannon for an arm and he runs like a tailback. His size allows him to see over the line of scrimmage and his pocket presense is astounding for such a young player, according to Truilizio. The coach couldn’t recall his signal caller being sacked all season and he attributes that to his maturity.
If you ask Woodard why he’s been so successful and able to adapt so quickly to leading the Jacks’ offense, his answer is very simple: his offensive line. He said it also helps to have a bunch of talented sophomore teammates that are going through the same learning process that he is experiencing.
But nothing is quite like playing quarterback. That position requires complete understanding of your own responsibilities and those of everyone else on offense. He said he’s relished the opportunity to lead the team.
“Especially in a down season like this people are hanging their heads a lot and they’re uptight every game. So I try and pick them up,” Woodard said. “We have to try and be loose because you can’t succeed if you’re tight every game.”
In Week 3 against Williamsville North, Woodard had his season-defining moment.
With his team trailing 20-14 with just under four minutes to go, he drove the Jacks down the field, converting on several third downs and completing four passes for 52 yards.
It wasn’t some moment worthy of the big screen — he threw an interception to end the game — but it was a series of plays that proved to Woodard he could play the position.
“That was the turning point of my season. Before that I never really had expectations,” he said. “Once I figured out how to get things going and what I can do, that’s definitely something I think about all the time. If I could do it then I can do it now.”
The Jacks will need Woodard to do “it” on Friday night, but no matter what happens Truilizio is excited about what’s to come.
“Chris has a 95 average and if he maintains at the level he’s at he’s going to be an Ivy League player someday,” Truilizio said. “His future is bright.”