Jonathan “Bear” Woods, a Macclenny native and linebacker in the Canadian Football League, shared his story of perseverance with some two dozen youths playing in the Dare to be Different 3-0n-3 Basketball Tournament May 4.
Hoping to inspire the young athletes gathered in the BCHS gym, the former Wildcat standout, Troy University graduate and former Atlanta Falcons player described overcoming the low expectations of others throughout his career and eventually earning a spot with the Montreal Alouettes.
The secret to his success, he said, was relentless preparation, determination and not taking no for an answer.
VIDEO: Click for video from Mr. Woods’ talk and an exclusive on-camera interview with The Press.
Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Woods said, “I would repeat to myself over and over, I will study and prepare so when my opportunity comes, I will be ready. That’s what I live by.”
As a freshman walk-on at Troy in Alabama, Mr. Woods set his sights on securing an athletic scholarship and a starting position on the football roster. It took two years and a new coaching staff, but he got both.
He said the toughest point of his career was when the Trojan coaching staff sat him down and told him he was a good back-up, but he’d never be a starter at Troy.
“I said, ‘I respect your opinion, but I disagree with you. I’m a starter. I’m going to start on this team,” he told the coaches.
And he did. Despite his small size for a linebacker (he’s 6 feet, 245 pounds), Mr. Woods went on to lead the nation in tackles before suffering an injury.
“I relish that point in my life, seeing my name at the top of that stat board,” he said.