LOS ANGELES-Robert Woods Jr. had an amazing high school and collegiate football career. The former Serra High School and USC standout should prosper just as well at the NFL level if his past success on the football field is any indication.
In fact, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched if Woods wind up turning into one of the elite wide receivers in the league. One of the most prolific wide receivers to come out of USC, Woods is already making quite an impression.
But then again that is nothing new for the electric playmaker.
Woods has been dazzling folks since his Pop Warner days. He took Gardena, California-based Serra to a state title. Once he hit the college stage, Woods’ talents continued to shine on his way to becoming the Pac-12 and USC record-holder for most passes caught in a single season.
Woods also holds USC’s all-time mark for catches in a career.
Now it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. Instead of blowing by a hapless college cornerback, Woods will now take his 4.5 seconds 40-speed and his electric yards-after-the-catch (YAC) skills to make NFL defensive backs look silly.
Woods is now in the big boys after being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The alumni at Serra High School have to be very proud of one of their favorite sons. Woods’ sister, Olivia, is somewhere smiling that her brother accomplished his childhood dreams.
It’s unfortunate that Olivia is not physically here to see Woods do his thing. But she’s watching. Woods has an extra pair of unseen eyes watching his every move, looking at what he does and how he conducts himself-on and off the field. Olivia, who lost her bout with cancer fight at 17, is with Woods in spirit.
Woods carries Olivia’s memories in his heart. He takes his sister with him in the locker room. He prepares for battle on the football field with her on his mind. However, the most lasting impression Olivia has left on Woods is for him to do the right thing when all the cheering stops and all the hype goes away.
Before she passed away in 2007, Olivia gave her younger brother a message that he has heeded: to be a role model-on and off the field.
Former NBA great Charles Barkley, who famously declared in a Nike commercial that “I am not a role model,” might feel a bit guilty upon hearing this little nugget of wisdom that Woods’ sister passed on to her brother.
If his preparation and dedication to his craft as a football player wasn’t enough to push him, Woods finds his spiritual and psychological inspiration through Olivia.
He prepares each game with Olivia in his mind, in his spirit and on his football gear. Look for that ritual to continue as he embarks on his NFL career. At the USC Pro Day, which took place before the NFL Draft, Woods said he and his family were working on plans to keep Olivia alive, be it in the form of a foundation, scholarship fund or something else.
As of right now the only thing that is concrete in her honor is what his former high school has done in her memory.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Woods said. “Me and my parents, my mom, we talked about doing a foundation or something, making donations to Serra. Our high school has been so good to us; they got a whole tree and waterfall for my sister. So I definitely want to keep donating to that and keep my sister alive.”
Special people are cut from a different cloth. With his sister’s memory in steadfast remembrance, Woods shows you he is one of those individuals. The Bills have probably figured that out by now. The Bills know they’re getting a special player.
But they also know they’re getting more of a jewel of a person. They say that the first impression is oftentimes a lasting impression.
The impression a person is likely to get when meeting Woods for the first time is a warm smile, humility and a young man grounded in life’s realities. You don’t have to be around Woods for a long period of time to see that.
You don’t need to catch a glimpse of one of his spectacular receptions to know you’re seeing extraordinary person.
Clichés often run rampant in the sports world when it comes to heaping out aimless accolades on today’s athlete. Woods is as good as they come on the football field. He is just as special away from the game.
The media tend to get into a bad habit of thinking they know these athletes from a quick sound bite that their microphone or tape recorder picks up. As the one-time great Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson once said, “I’d like to think I’m more complicated than that.”
Athletes are a lot more complicated than a quick sound bite. But speaking with Woods is like talking in the mirror of class, dignity and grace. He represents well. That’s one side of the coin.
The other side of the equation is that Woods is an ultra competitor who wants to be the best of the best.
In this case, Woods wants to his receiving talents to the next level. That takes hard work, which Woods says he enjoys doing.
“I like working,” Woods said. “It only going gets me better…I just want to be great. I think my want to is that I want to be great. I want to be the greatest receiver. I think right there that makes me competitive. I want to do more than what another receiver will.”
As far as making it in the NFL, Woods calls it “a dream come true.”
“That means that everything I have working for since I was playing for the Carson Colts in Pop Warner is finally paying off,” Woods said. “Got to keep going, it never stops.”