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Undersized RB Woodhead shines for Patriots North Platte athlete gets his chance at the Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Undersized and undrafted, Danny Woodhead had two things against him when he set out on his pro career. In less than four years, the diminutive star from Division II Chadron State has made it to the pinnacle of the NFL. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back has been a steady contributor to New England’s Super Bowl season. Woodhead has become an inspiration for other undersized players — proof that a small guy from a small school can make it in the NFL. To him, it’s not all that impressive. “I’m not too concerned with the past,” he said. “I think every day is the drive, not necessarily something in my past. I just want to get better every single day.” Woodhead was a star running back at North Platte (Neb.) High School, where he was the Omaha World-Herald’s male Athlete of the Year in 2004. Like most youngsters in his state, he wanted to play college football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska and the other big schools weren’t interested, so he stayed in state and went to Chadron State. He won the Harlon Hill award in 2006 and 2007 as the nation’s top Division II player and finished his career with a thenNCAA record 7,962 yards rushing. Those numbers weren’t enough to impress pro scouts, and he went undrafted. The New York Jets signed him as a free agent in 2008, but he missed the season with a knee injury. He played sparingly for the Jets in 2009, then they cut him at the start of the 2010 sea-

son. The Patriots signed him four days after the Jets cut him, and he has been a solid contributor since. The Giants respect his tenacity. “Woodhead’s a good football player,” Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “I love his story. I love where he’s come from to be what he is now.” Woodhead always thought he’d make it in the league, even after the Jets cut him. “I felt like I’d get another chance,” he said. “I don’t know if there was something that made me believe that. I guess I just didn’t think it was over. I felt like I had a lot of football left in me.” His first year with the Patriots, he ran for 547 yards, averaged a team-record 5.6 yards per carry and caught 34 passes for 379 yards. This season, he ran for 351 yards, caught 18 passes for 157 yards and retur ned 20 kickoffs for a 21.9yard average. Woodhead is humbled, but not surprised about his success because he never saw his size as a negative. “To me, it is not an issue,” he said. “I don’t think it is something that I have to fight at all, because it is not something I have had to worry about ever. I don’t think being 5-8 has ever hurt me. Maybe in the eyes of some, but it is not something that I worry about at all.” His toughness makes him a favorite of his teammates. “Woody’s a great player, man,” Patriots receiver Deion Branch said. “The coaches truly enjoy him. The players — we love him. He’s another small guy that has done a lot

for this league and changed the naysayers minds. He’s one of my guys.” Woodhead knew he’d get a chance to show what he could do when the Patriots picked him up. “I think they just try to get the guys that they think will work in their system the best, and we go out there and try to do our job every single play,” he said. “They are going to do their job trying to find the best players for them and we are going to go out there and work as hard as we can.” His approach to the game has earned respect from his peers. “ W o o d y comes to practice, he works hard,” BenJ a r v u s Green-Ellis, the team’s leading rusher, said. “He’s extremely fast, quick. He does good things as a running back.” Patriots The don’t see Woodhead as a novelty — they need him. “The things that this guy brings to the team are truly unbelieva b l e , ” Branch said. “We truly appreciate this guy being here, and he has a big role this game this week.” Kevin Faulk, another undersized back on the team, paid him perhaps the best compliment: “He’s everything you want in a small guy.”

The Associated Press

Danny Woodhead of the New England Patriots gets fired up for a game in this undated AP file photo.

WOODHEAD HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RECORDS

NPHS records n Single season rushing record – 268 carries for 2,037 yards in 2003 n Career rushing record – 660 carries for 4,891 yards n Most touchdowns in a season – 31 in 2003 n Most touchdowns in a single game – 6 vs. Omaha Westside in 2002 State High school records n Individual Scoring - most points, career Class A:

456, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2000-03 n Most points, season — Class A: 204, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2003 n Most touchdowns, career — Class A: 76, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2000-03 n Most touchdowns, season — Class A: 34, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2003 n Most touchdowns, game — Class A: Dan Woodhead, North Platte vs. Omaha Westside, 2002 6 (tied with numerous other players.)

n Rushing - most yards, career — Class A: 4,891, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2000-03 n Most rushing touchdowns, career — Class A: 63, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2000-03 Single game records, individual(One-game performances during any round of the playoffs.) n Touchdowns — A-6, Dan Woodhead, 2002 (vs. Omaha Westside) n Points scored — A-36, Dan Woodhead, North Platte, 2002 (vs. Omaha Westside)

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Woodhead family going to Super Bowl Mark and Annette Woodhead have followed Danny and all their children through their sports careers By ANDREW BOTTRELL abottrell@nptelegraph.com

High school conference championships, state playoffs, state championships, college conference championships, college playoff games, professional playoff games and now — the Super Bowl. The Woodheads, Mark and Annette, have followed their children throughout their athletic careers from venue to venue, state to state to watch as they succeeded. The only difference, now that Danny is a New England Patriot, they said, is the distance. Danny Woodhead, a North Platte High School and Chadron State College graduate, will suit up this Sunday in the biggest football game in the world, with the family in tow. “We’re pretty mellow about it,” said Annette. “Other than it being the Super Bowl, we’re not doing anything we haven’t ever done. We follow our kids wherever they play. Telegraph file photo The difference is the disMark and Annette Woodhead supported Danny and tance.” Woodhead will take the brother Ben when the boys played together in 2001 for field in Indianapolis SunNorth Platte High School. That season the Bulldogs made day as the first Nebraskan it to the class A championship game in Lincoln. since Scott Shanle, a Genoa

native, two years ago for the New Orleans Saints. Along with Mark and Annette, their other four children, grandparents and Danny’s wife Stacia and her parents, will be attending the game in Indianapolis. “I think it’s still very surreal. Even going out to games,” older brother Ben said. “It’s a lot to soak in, to see him out there and making contributions. Ultimately, I’m very proud of him.” Now a medical student in Kirksville, Mo., Ben played wide receiver at Chadron State with Danny, and was also a teammate of Danny’s at NPHS. He said it’s great to be able to have played with him and that all of his previous teammates have that same feeling. “When it’s your flesh

and blood, that’s at a new level. It is neat,” he said, joking about playing with him in high school and college, but that his NFL career was cut short. “It’s fun to see a normal guy do well.” Ben said he’s had a busy week and is trying not to think too much about the trip to Indianapolis this week. A sophomore running back at Peru State himself, younger brother Joel said it’s going to be exciting, but also said that Danny has been playing on the big stage for a long time. “It’s definitely a pretty cool thing,” he said. “I haven’t thought much of it, yet. Once I’m there, it will be probably be surreal.” Two weeks ago, the Patriots topped the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro,

Mass., after Raven kicker Billy Cundiff missed a field goal that would have taken the game to overtime in the closing seconds. “The last five minutes you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” Mark said. The last few minutes of the game included two interceptions, one each for each team, a failed fourth down attempt and a missed field goal by the Ravens. “I don’t know if I’ve had as many emotional highs and lows in that short of a time,” said Ben, who was in attendance. “It was a neat experience.” Joel was watching from his home in Peru, Neb., and said he wasn’t sure the Patriots were going to pull it out. “It was a little nerve wracking,” he said.

Telegraph file photo

Ben Woodhead, left, runs for yardage as brother Danny Woodhead (42) gets ready to block in a Chadron State game when Ben was a senior and Danny was a freshman. The brothers played together for one season in high school and one season in college.


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Go Danny! Danny Woodhead (3) runs through a huge hole in a game for Chadron State in his senior season in this file photo. Woodhead set numerous national college records while playing for the Eagles. Woodhead will be playing in the biggest game of his career on Sunday as the New England Patriots face the New York Giants in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Ind.

Photo courtesy of Chadron State

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COLLEGE RECORDS

Danny Woodhead Milestones: n Most yards rushing in a season—His 2,756 yards in 2006 is an allNCAA record. He’s the only college player at any level to exceed 2,700 yards rushing in a season. n Most yards rushing in a career—7,962, 200407. The previous all-college record was 7,353 by R. J. Bowers, Grove City, Pa., 1997-2000. Woodhead broke that record vs. Western New Mexico on Oct. 5. The old NCAA II record was 6,985 by Germaine Race, Pittsburg State, 2003-06 n Most games rushing for 200 yards or more by a freshman—5 in 2004 (shared with Johnny Bailey, West Texas A&M-Kingsville, 1986). n Most games gaining 200 yards or more career—19, The former all-NCAA record was by R.J. Bowers, who did it 16 times for Grove City. PA, 1997-2000). n Most consecutive games gaining 100 or more yards—16 (4 at the end of the 2005 season and 12 time in 2006). n Most all-purpose yards season—3,159, 2006 (2,756 rushing, 403 receiving). n Most rushing touchdowns scored by a freshman—24 in 2004. n Most rushing touchdowns scored in a season (34 in 2006) and most points scored in a season (228 on 38 TDs in 2006). Both were broken in 2007. n Most consecutive games scoring a touchdown—38, 2004-07. (NCAA II record was 25, all-college record was 37 by Lee Suggs, Virginia Tech, 2000-2002). n Woodhead rushed for at least 100 yards in 37 of his 44 games. That exceeds the Division II record of 34 that was set by Damian Beane of Shepherd College in West Virginia, 1996-99.

Photo courtesy of Chadron State

Woodhead’s junior year at Chadron State College.

Telegraph file photo

Woodhead’s senior year at North Platte High School.

Telegraph file photo

Woodhead was chosen the Telegraph 2002 Fall Athlete of the Year in his junior season for the North Platte High School Bulldogs.

n Woodhead became the sixth NCAA Division II player to rush for more than 1,000 yards four seasons and the second running back at any level to exceed 1,500 all four years. He ran for 1,840 yards as a freshman in 2004, 1,769 as a sophomore in 2005, 2,756 as a junior in 2006 and 1,597 his senior year. The players who preceded him as four-time 1,000yard rushers are Johnny Bailey, Texas A&MKingsville, 1986-89; Jeremy Monroe, Michigan Tech, 1990-93; Jarrett Anderson, Truman State, 1993-96; Damian Beane, Shepherd, 199699; and Chris Washington, Concordia-St. Paul, 2000-03. Xavier Omen of Northwest Missouri reached the 1,000-yard milestone in 2007 and went on to become the first player to rush for at least 1,500 yards four times. Woodhead joined Omon as a four-time 1,500-yard rusher in the playoff game vs. Abilene Christian. Omon finished his senior year in 2007 with 2,337 yards. n Woodhead’s career rushing average is 180.9 yards a game. The alltime NCAA leader is Arnold Mickens of Butler, who averaged 190.7 yards a game while playing 20 games in 1994-95. Bowers, who averaged 183.8 in 40 games for Grove City, is second, Anthony Gray, who averaged 183.4 yards in 19 games at Western New Mexico in 1997-98, is third and Woodhead is fourth. n Woodhead is just the second player in college football history to score 100 touchdowns and finished his career with 109. That matches the number of touchdowns scored by Germaine Race of Pittsburg State at the end of his career in 2006. Since Race also scored twopoint conversion, he has the all-time lead in

scoring IN college football with 656 points, two more than Woodhead. n His 9,480 all-purpose yards averages 215.5 per game and 7.34 yards each time he touched the ball during his career. His pergame average ranks sixth on the all-college list. Each of those ahead of him accumulated at least 1,440 yards as a punt and kickoff returner. He had only 101 yards on returns. n Woodhead was selected as a 2007 National Scholar-Athlete winner and a finalist for the Draddy Trophy. The Scholar-Athlete Award provides him with an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame. n In addition, he was selected as the college division scholar-athlete of the year besides winning first-team Academic All-American honors for the second year in a row. He has a 3.72 cumulative grade point average while majoring in mathematics and physical education. n He was the RMAC offensive player of the year three times after being selected the RMAC offensive freshman of the year in 2004. As a senior, he also was selected as the conference’s football scholarathlete of the year, the first time the award was given. n After earning the Harlon Hill Trophy in both 2006 and ‘07, he is one of just three players to receive the honor that goes to Division II’s outstanding player more than once. Johnny Bailey of Texas A&I (now Texas A&MKingsville) received it the last three years in the 1980s and Dusty Bonner of Valdosta State received it in 2000 and 2001.

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Woodhead unfazed by media blitz at Super Bowl Patriots RB stays focused on his job By JOSH WEINFUSS Special to the Telegraph

INDIANAPOLIS – Until Danny Woodhead played in the NFL, the biggest crowd to watch him was about 5,000 people crammed into a 3,500-seat stadium at Chadron State College. Nearly the whole town of Chadron watched the running back rewrite the Division II record books. When Woodhead signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2009, he started playing in front of crowds about 16 times larger than those at Chadron State. This week, as Woodhead and the New England Patriots prepare to play the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, he’s being introduced to an even larger population. Danny Woodhead, meet the world. The world, meet Danny Woodhead. Take one look at the 5foot-8, 195-pound Woodhead and you won’t think he’s the shifty running back who often hides behind the giants on New England’s offensive line. But Woodhead has become a celebrity in Indianapolis for his work on the field, being featured on the front pages and the focus of stories in major national newspapers. His table at media gatherings regularly drew dozens of cameras.

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that didn’t want me. That was the thing about Chadron. They showed that they wanted me. “I’m not going to hold anything against anyone. That was the plan for my life, God had a plan for myself and it was to go to Chadron State. Who knows what would have happened if I went to a bigger school.” Not one to look ahead or hypothesize about, well, anything, Woodhead has tried not to let the Super consume his Bowl thoughts. He’s gone about the last couple of weeks as they were like any other. When he finally walks out onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, he knows it’ll be different, but until then it’s business as usual. “As hard as it may be at times,” Woodhead said, “it still is just another game and we have to get ready just like we always do. “When it comes, it’ll happen and I’m sure it will be exciting.”

Danny Woodhead, 39, scoring his first National Football League touchdown on Nov. 27, 2010 against the Buffalo Bills. When Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater first saw Woodhead, he scratched his head. But it didn’t take long for Slater, the son of 19-year NFL veteran Jackie Slater, to believe in Woodhead. But Woodhead hasn’t let the bright lights of the Super Bowl distract him. “I try not to get too caught up in it,” Woodhead said. “I feel like I am going to come out and play to the best of my abilities every play. I don’t think the light being too big or having so

many people at a game really affects it. “I just want to be the best teammate that I can be on every play. That is what I am more concerned about.” Woodhead didn’t get caught up in the hoopla of Super Bowl week, either, which is often compared to a three-ring circus with the game being an afterthought to the parties, celebrities and hype. He’s stayed humble all week. As the questions came flying at him, he evaded

any answers that might provide the Giants with bulletin board material, or any answers that might take the focus off the team. Did he prepare for the type of 2010 season he had that propelled him into the conversations with Wes Welker and Deion Branch? “That is not something that I think about too much,” Woodhead answered. Has he thought about potentially being the first player to touch the football

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in the Super Bowl on a kickoff return? “I don’t know if I’ve thought about it all that much,” was his response. Has he dreamed about what stepping on the field Sunday will be like? “You think about it, but I try not to think about it too much,” he quipped. His small town-to-Super Bowl story has been told countless times during the last two weeks. But it began while he was a senior at North Platte High School. Woodhead sent game tapes to a variety of Division I schools, hoping to secure a football scholarship. Atop that list was Nebraska, which never offered Woodhead an opportunity to play. Instead of opting to walk on somewhere and a second or third option, Woodhead went to play at Division II Chadron State. “If they don’t want you, they don’t want you,” Woodhead said. “I didn’t really want to go to a place

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