Oct. 18, 2011
By Mario Cannon
Family builds principles, self-esteem, character and personality. Family is also a very broad term for many people, especially those like senior Orion Woodard. There’s the family that’s related genetically and there’s the family connected by a bond built over time. For Woodard, his family away from home is the University of Cincinnati football team. Over his college career he’s proven that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure his family is taken care of.
“Here at Cincinnati, it’s been like a family,” Woodard said. “You never want to let your brother down or any of your family members down. So that drives me to work harder and harder every day. I always had the mindset of doing what’s best for the team and if special teams is where they need me, then that’s where I’ll play.”
Woodard has made a name for himself as a hard worker on special teams, primarily on kickoff returns, despite not seeing much time at his listed position of wide receiver. Personally, he has high hopes of one day scoring a touchdown. Until then, Woodard is willing to do whatever it takes to assist in getting his team a victory.
“Coach (Butch) Jones has a mentality that’s called IRU, indisputable role understanding,” Woodard said. “I already knew as a freshman I wanted to play and do whatever was best for the team. When my chance came, it just panned out that would be special teams. I worked my butt off doing whatever and everything on special teams to just show I could do whatever they need me to. Wherever they need me to go, I can play. That just so happened to be everywhere on special teams.”
Entering college, Woodard was somewhat aware that this might become his role on the team as he was initially recruited for his versatility. In high school he almost never came off the field because he held so many positions on the team, including wide receiver, defensive back, linebacker, kickoff, kick return, punt return, punter, and kicker.
“In high school I had eight different spots,” Woodard said. “I knew (at UC) they were going to use me anywhere, I just didn’t know where exactly, except for at receiver because that’s what I came in as.”
Woodard, who was once a multi-sport high school athlete in both soccer and track, has a noble ‘can do’ attitude and a mindset. His family back at home has been his key motivators throughout college. One of his fondest memories is when his five-year-old nephew called and said, “I want to be like you when I grow up.”
As a role model, Woodard has carried the weight of not letting his family down, giving him the drive to succeed in college. With the opportunity he’s been given through football to gain an education, he can proudly say he is the first in his family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
“It (football) was my ticket to do something with my life,” Woodard said. “I can honestly say if I didn’t play football I wouldn’t be in college. It gave me a chance to get a degree and have new experiences that I would have never had or dreamed of. In a small sense, not that it is me, but it has decisively shaped me into the man I am today.”
Both football and his family back at home have contributed a great deal to where he is in his life. Woodard is planning on trying out for the NFL after this season, but if he doesn’t make it to the professional level, this will be his last year with the brotherhood that comes with being on a football team. The always optimistic Woodard feels that he will without a doubt find a job in the criminal justice field, whether working with troubled youth or law enforcement. Although he will miss his chosen family of Bearcat brothers, wherever he relocates after school will consist of his actual family.
“I’m definitely going to try to go the NFL, but my main goal coming into college was to get my degree, and I got it,” Woodard said. “There are jobs here, but after I’m done I’m either going to move home to New Jersey or out to Arizona. I have family in both states and that’s why I want to move there. It’s always nice to have family that will help you out.”