Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Joy in the preparation

Josh Woodrum enjoys weight training and running as much as playing in the games.

Josh Woodrum has it all backward.

His teammates tell him this all the time. Dude, they say. Why do you like working out so much? Are you crazy? The games are supposed to be what drive you, not the preparation.

Coaches have their own agendas, and seeing kids get bigger and stronger is paramount among them, but they ultimately view the process the same way as the players. "Sacrifice," they always call it. Offseason workouts are the necessary evil to produce victories on fall Friday nights.

They realize they can't sell weight-lifting as a joyful activity. Who on Earth would buy that?

Woodrum, that's who. The more-than-willing workout fiend, the walking example of what self-motivation can do for you.

Today, Cave Spring hosts Northside in a Group AA Division 3 semifinal. Woodrum is a big reason why the Knights are here. The junior quarterback has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 1,947 yards and 13 touchdowns as the triggerman of Cave Spring's spread offense. He's also run for nine scores and served as the team's punter.

If the Knights win today, they'll play for a state title next week at Lane Stadium. Woodrum, obviously, will do everything he can to make sure that happens.

But if they lose? Well, that just means he'll get a head start on his favorite part of the year.

"I never think about the football season when I'm looking ahead," Woodrum said, when asked if he ever considered what his senior year will be like. "I think about the offseason. I like working out."

Yes. And Phil Ivey "likes" to play poker.

Truth is, Woodrum enjoys a healthy obsession with lifting and running -- and it's helped him blossom from a 158-pound, self-described "skinny little dude" as a sophomore into a 6-foot-3, 190-pound force this year.

"He's worked harder than anybody on the team," junior wide receiver Austin Micklem said. "I was expecting him to have a great season, which he is having."

"He busts his butt," junior wideout Reece Kemp said.

"I think it's his life, basically," junior running back Michael Cole said. "It's basically everything he thinks about."

Less than a week after Cave Spring completed a 2-8 season in 2008, Woodrum began an offseason program that would consume him the next three months. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he'd lift weights at The Edge Sports Performance Center in Roanoke. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he'd hone his speed and agility with the facility's trainers.

He never struggled with motivation.

"I like the fact that I'm working hard, that I feel like I'm getting bigger, I feel like I'm getting faster," Woodrum said. "I like busting it all out and getting better. My teammates think I'm crazy, but I just think it's fun. Lifting, running, jumping, everything -- it's just fun."

Teammates know not to bother Woodrum when he's lifting, running or jumping. An upbeat, friendly personality most of the time, Woodrum focuses like a fiend during his workouts.

"I don't even really like to talk to people," he said.

Woodrum coupled that intense regimen with a diet that included any food he could find, which helped him pack on weight for this season.

While he still won't rank as the meatiest guy around, he was prepared for anything when he entered 7-on-7 drills in the spring.

Anything happened. The Cave Spring coaching staff decided to move from a run-first, double-wing offense to a hybrid spread formation in the mold of the University of Florida.

Woodrum's eyes widened when he heard the news. You mean he'd actually get to pass the ball? A lot? Perfect!

"It would have taken years to develop the right people," Cave Spring coach Tim Fulton said of the new system.

"But with his devotion, dedication and work ethic, he just took right to it."

And the Knights have been a different team. Cave Spring won its first five games -- including a 10-7 victory over Northside on Sept. 11 -- en route to a 10-2 record, setting the stage for today's big Roanoke County rematch.

There's not much more Woodrum could do to be ready.

"I don't put the work in for football during football season," he said. "I put the work in during the offseason."

Maybe that's backward.

But maybe not. After all, the Knights have only moved forward since.

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