Picture the lights. The roaring crowd. The pressure. The rush.
The score is all tied up and the other team has the ball. One more touchdown and it’s game over.
Mark Woodson is determined to defend the ball and do his part to help the Meadows Mustangs win. After years of hard work both on the field and in the classroom, and years of surgeries combating a growth problem, Woodson has risen to become a crucial player on his high school football team and an academic achiever, all while getting respect and admiration from classmates.
Woodson, a junior at The Meadows School, has played varsity football for three years. He plays defensive tackle and offensive guard. His coaches say they’ve gotten to know his strengths, such as self-discipline.
“Because of the fact that you can trust him to do his job and his practice habits are stellar, he can perform at a consistently high level in football games,” said defensive coordinator Rod Vollan.
That steady quality of play needed extra effort. Woodson struggled before becoming the athlete he is today. Now standing at 6-foot-3, he added inches too quickly as a kid.
“I grew too fast, so the bones in my feet weren’t as strong as they needed to be and whenever I walked I felt pain,” he said.
He underwent three surgeries between the fifth and sixth grades. In the seventh and eighth grades, he had two knee operations. The surgeries put him in everything from a wheelchair to a scooter that let him rest one leg while using the other to roll between classes, but Woodson said his condition is no longer an issue.
The toughness that helped Woodson overcome physical challenges applies in the classroom, too, Meadows faculty members said.
“I’ve heard nothing but accolades about Mark and his work ethic. He’s very diligent,” said Charles Newman, dean of students.
Woodson achieved honor roll his freshman year and high honor roll his sophomore year. He said pre-calculus BC is his favorite class and his strong point.
Even through his struggles, Woodson has remained one of the most well-liked students in his class. Classmates voted him homecoming prince for this year’s homecoming court.
“He’s nice to everybody and he’s fun to hang out with. He’s uplifting when you’re around him and he’s never down,” said junior Jake Gleason, Woodson’s friend and teammate.
Handling his responsibilities on and off the field requires an ability to balance his commitments, Woodson said.
“Those are my top priorities. Once I finish sports, I have to get home quickly and make sure I get my work done.”
And that balance is what has made Woodson successful, Newman said.
Newman called Woodson “a model Meadows student.”
“He’s earned his place in athletics and he does his job in the academic arena as well,” Newman said.