Former Trojan to guest speak at Colley Awards

Published 3:00 am Friday, May 13, 2016

By Dan Smith

There are those who have heard of the bible verse Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” there are those who have memorized the passage, and then there are those who live it daily in life and professional sports.

Bear Woods is more than a legendary name in the rich history of athletes to have played in Troy University’s storied football program, he is an example of underdog who becomes the leader, and an example of relentless perseverance.

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This Monday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m., the current linebacker in the Canadian Football League will be the featured speaker at the 25th Annual J.O. “Tip” Colley Awards Banquet at the Troy Recreation Center, an event that honors the top male and female high school scholar-athletes in Pike County who have excelled in the classroom, athletics, community service and in their faith, and sponsored each year by the Troy Exchange Club.

“When I think of my playing career at Troy, rewarding is the word that comes to mind,” said Woods, who now calls Wetumpka home for he, his wife and two children. “I was at Troy five years, and by the time I was a junior and senior there were nine starters who were walk-ons, including myself. To see us go from paying to play to earning scholarships and be a part of that stretch was very rewarding.”

Submitted Photo/Troy Athletics  Former Troy Trojan Bear Woods will be the featured speaker at the 25th annual J.O. “Tip” Colley Awards Banquet at the Troy Recreational Center.

Submitted Photo/Troy Athletics
Former Troy Trojan Bear Woods will be the featured speaker at the 25th annual J.O. “Tip” Colley Awards Banquet at the Troy Recreational Center.

Woods played quarterback, safety, receiver and linebacker at Baker County High School outside of Jacksonville, Fla. There were no offers for his services on the collegiate level.

By chance, two coaches were on the phone one day in 2005, and Woods’ high school coach, Carl West, told Troy University offensive coordinator Mark Fleetwood that he had a senior that was overlooked and wanted to play college football. Fleetwood said to send Woods up that weekend, and from that day Woods was a young man with a clear focus.

“My preacher said last Sunday that you can do anything you put your mind to,” said Woods. “Well, that’s not always true, as I could never be an opera singer, because you always have to have the ability. Everyone has ability at the D-I level. My mindset was that when I stepped into the weight room, when I stepped onto the field, I was going to outwork everybody, and I mean I verbally said this. I verbally said it to my dad, and when I got my first workout in I was on a mission to outwork everybody.

“I had that edge my entire time and I still carry it with me to this very day. I’m still going to outwork everybody else. When you are dealing with Division I athletes, you are going to find talent at every level, you can find anybody that can run, but can you find someone that is willing to work? Can you find someone that this is important to them? I learned that perspective from my father, even as an 18-year-old.”

From 2005 to 2009, Woods was a part of an era of Troy University football that won four straight Sun Belt titles and made three bowl appearances. Twice he was named Sun Belt all-conference linebacker.

Woods joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2010, moved over to the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League in 2011, and in 2014 was a finalist for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. During that 2014 season Woods missed the first six games due to an injury yet returned to finish second in the league in tackles with 89 and recorded seven sacks.

Returning 100-percent healthy for 2016, Woods will report to preseason workouts in Canada on May 26, with the first pre-season game being June 8.

Woods knew at an early age what he wanted to do in his life. At age 6, he told his father he wanted to be a preacher and to play professional football. He has lived up to those ambitions, sharing the gospel off the field and playing professionally since 2010.

“In the town I grew up in, it was God, Family and Football, and in that order,” said Woods. That’s just the way it was always taught to me. I accepted Jesus Christ when I was 6 yeas old, and at that point I told my dad I was going to be a preacher and be in the NFL, and I did not lose site of that my entire life. My football path has not been an easy one. I always believed in Proverbs 3:5. I trust in the Lord with all my heart and I don’t lean on my own understanding. I am always a Christian before I am a football player, and it has always kept me very optimistic. My teammates, even at the pro level, are always commenting that I always have a positive attitude.”

Woods is also well-known for his long dreads that flow from beneath his helmet, but they offer more of a symbolic meaning.

“My best friend’s mom had breast cancer when I was in middle school, and I gave my hair to Locks for Love several times,” said Woods. “I had long hair in middle school and in high school, and that was a way to give back. The hair, even in high school, became by calling card. Now instead of long hair it is dreads, which came in college. Who would have known it would be a trademark of mine.”

Although Woods now lives the life of a professional athlete, Troy will always hold a special place for he and his wife, whom he met in college at Troy.

“The best thing that happened to me was going to Troy University,” said Woods. “I have my wife and my two kids and friendships and even people still in Troy that are family to me. So the best thing to happen to me was Troy University, without a doubt. It gave me an opportunity, and just the Lord working as well. That university has provided to me what is now a very blessed life, outside of football. To be a part of the championships doing that point in time makes it that much more sweeter.”

The J.O. Tip Colley Awards Banquet will be Monday, May 16, 6:30 p.m. at the Troy Recreation Center, and is open to the public. To RSVP, call Jerry Miller at 808-2825.