Antwaun Woods flies under the radar

first_imgIt is hard to miss a 6-foot-1,  320-pound behemoth in a crowd, but nose tackle Antwaun Woods finds a way to make it happen.Though Woods is big in stature, it is not surprising how people can still overlook him entering into his fifth year on campus. He is not brash nor does he try to bring attention to himself.He is respectful and quietly goes about his business on and off the field. In fact, he does this so well that when he is playing at his best, other players often reap the rewards of his hard work. Welcome to the life of a nose tackle.If you ask Woods, he wouldn’t have it any other way.“We’re the tough guys on the field,” Woods said. “We make life easier for everyone else.”Football has always been a bottom-line business. Numbers often rule a player’s value, and at first glance, Woods is just another player on the field.Last season, Woods finished the 2014 season with 37 solo tackles in 12 games, averaging 3.1 tackles per game and finishing 14th on the team in the category. Though those numbers are hardly noteworthy — Eric Kendricks of UCLA led the nation last year with 101 solo tackles — Woods’ impact on the field goes far beyond his individual stats.Though he may not have had outstanding numbers, his power lies in making those around him better. As nose tackle in a base 3-4 defense, his strength demands constant double-teams against opposing interior offensive linemen, oftentimes shutting down the A-gap on rushes and allowing pass rushers from the defensive tackle and linebacker position to get favorable one-on-one matchups.His efforts resulted in USC nearly shutting out Arkansas State in the Trojans’ season debut last weekend, holding the opposition to six points. His pressure up the middle hurried Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten constantly, causing errant throws and holding the dual-threat quarterback to just 86 passing yards.It is his selflessness and determination that are invaluable to the Trojans’ defense — qualities that made him a popular candidate when voting took place at the beginning of the season.“It’s like a dream come true,” Woods said of being named captain. “Growing up in L.A., I never imagined being named captain of the USC football team. I feel like I made my way into history.”Woods grew up in Baldwin Village, a low-income area of Los Angeles he refers to as “The Jungles.”  Raised by his father and his grandmother, Woods was bussed to Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California, where his dad played football as an offensive lineman — a 45-minute commute on a good day.Though he made his name dominating offenses 25 miles away from home, he never lost his love for USC. Currently, fans and opponents are treated to the sight of Woods’ tattoo — a football that covers the inside of his massive bicep that is inscribed with the ’SC logo and the number 99.“I’ve been watching USC football my whole life,” Woods said. “It’s something I got on me to represent. I bleed cardinal and gold.”USC may have been his dream school, but his start at the university was almost a nightmare. Relying mostly on raw ability and size in high school, Woods found it difficult to navigate the USC practice field at a whopping 335 pounds when he first arrived on campus, forcing him to redshirt his freshman year.Instead of sulking, Woods took the time to assess where he wanted to be in the Trojan tradition — a story of unfulfilled potential or working toward joining Mike Patterson and Sedrick Ellis as one the best defensive tackles to play at USC.Eventually, Woods dropped to a more nimble 295 pounds and earned a spot on the defensive tackle rotation, at which point he never looked back.Woods is now in his final year with Trojans — a year in which USC is without sanctions and ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll.  He knows that his leadership on defense will be needed for the Trojans to be successful.“I need to show the young guys how to behave and perform,” Woods said about his duties to the team. “I need to do whatever I can to make the team better.”With the air around campus a little more electric this year, and with the high expectations that are heaped on this team, Woods had a message to send to the Trojan faithful as they prepare to face the Idaho Vandals on Saturday.“Show up to the Coliseum with energy,” Woods said. “Get ready to rock it. Fight on.”last_img read more

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