By Reid Bankston
WATER VALLEY – It would have been easy for Water Valley’s J.J. Woodard to give up football after his junior season. After all, the Blue Devils finished 2-8 in 2007 and an enlarged heart put the sport he loved out of reach for a short time. However, through dedication and determination, Woodard made it, and he now has his football scholarship to Delta State to prove it.
“About a year ago, we thought he wasn’t going to get to play football because we thought he had an enlarged heart. That was the longest week ever, but he was going to play football regardless of whether (doctors) told him he could or not,” said Lenora Woodard, J.J.’s mother. “I thank God for this opportunity for him. I know football is his heart, but I’m looking forward to that college degree he’s going to get afterwards.”
Thanks in large part to a senior year where Woodard recorded over 100 tackles, 6 sacks, and 23 quarterback hurries, the Water Valley Blue Devils returned to the postseason and finished with a 5-6 overall record. Although Woodard put up the best numbers of his Blue Devil career in 2008, defensive line coach Bryant Mix thinks the Delta State signee’s biggest contribution can’t be calculated.
“J.J. did a great job of motivating his teammates to keep playing hard and that’s the main thing I’ll miss about him, his leadership,” said Mix. “I can remember the first day he (Woodard) came in as a 9th grader; he was a short chubby kid. But I always knew J.J. came from a good family and he got in there and started working and trying to improve each year,”
Now that his Water Valley career is over, the all region defensive lineman will now turn his attention to contributing for the two-time defending Gulf South Conference Champion.
“I loved my senior year; it was a new experience for me having a new coach. We had a great season and we worked hard and got a playoff spot, and it allowed me to sign with Delta State,” said J.J. Woodard. “It’s a great school and they’ve won the conference championship two years in a row. It’s a winning school, and I liked it. It’s a great environment and I liked the coaches, it’s going to be a great experience,”
Woodard is a part of 34-man signing class for the Statesman, and Mix knows, being a former college standout at Alcorn State, that the competition for his former pupil is about to take a huge step up.
“The playground is going to be totally even, you’ve got guys down their fighting for positions. He’s just going to have to bust his rear end in the weight room and the classroom in order to compete on the field and off,” said Mix.
Hoskins Signs with the Warhawks
A year after grade issues kept former Water Valley Blue Devil Antonio Hoskins from suiting up for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the former defensive standout will now take his talents to the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Hoskins, who was rated as a three star recruit by scout.com and the 28th overall linebacker in the country, is arguably the most prized signee for ULM in the 2009 class.
The future Warhawk recorded 191 tackles and 10 sacks during his junior year at Water Valley, but injuries cut his senior year short. Hoskins spent this past year at Mississippi Elite Christian Academy in Jackson.