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Revisiting football records -- and Woody

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's said idle hands are the devil's workshop. In my case, though, they led to research. And a hell of an update.

I began scanning NCAA's football record books. (It was last year's version, though, because the updated one wasn't completed yet.) Figured there would be a few WVU and Marshall players in there somewhere. What I quickly realized, however, is there are scads of records. There are so many Mountaineers in there it would be difficult to list them all.

A few?

  • Tom Pridemore, who played in 1975-77, still held the highest average gain per interception (26.5 yards) in a career. He had 15 picks for 398 yards.
  • Todd Sauerbrun had the highest average per punt in a season with a minimum of 50 (48.4 yards) and the highest average in a career with a minimum of 150 (46.3 from 1991-94).
  • Joe Stydahar shared the record of most punts blocked in a season (seven).
  • The roster of Mountaineers listed in the records, though, was long. Among those with records or listed as close include Pat White, Willie Drewrey, Shawn Hackett (TDs scored by fumble return and interception return in a game - two), Rick Sherrod, Major Harris, Steve Slaton, Bruce Irvin, Tavon Austin, Pat McAfee, Brian King, Grant Wiley, Kyle Kayden, James Davis (single game tackles for loss - six, tied with Julius Peppers and others), Avon Cobourne, Aaron Beasley, John Mallory, Frank Nester and Mike Collins.

    WVU as a team has good records (most forced fumbles in a game, seven, versus Cincinnati in 2003) and bad (most passes attempted without a completion, 18, versus Temple in 1946).

    The one Mountaineer, though, who will always remain in the books is a guy most know simply as Woody. Paul Woodside has the highest percentage of field goals made under 40 yards, with a minimum of 16 attempts. And the percentage can't get any higher. He hit 23 of 23 from that distance in 1982. (Seven others made 19).

    Some outlets gave Woodside first-team All-America honors that year. In 1983, he hit 21 of 25 field goals. Yet he'll always be remembered for two things.

    First, the former walk-on converted a fourth-quarter field goal that gave WVU a 17-14 upset of No. 20 Penn State in 1984 - the first win for West Virginia over the Nittany Lions in 29 years.

    Then there was his colorful personality. He'd draw various patterns on his shoes with a marker.

    Since then he's been making a mark in the world of kicking.

    On Friday, Woodside was in San Diego to work with Chargers kicker Nick Novak.

    "It's funny," Woodside said. "I was with a friend and someone nearby was talking about that Penn State game. My friend nudged me. I looked at the man and said, 'Was the idiot that kicked that field goal wearing stupid shoes?' He said, 'Yes.' 'I said, 'That was me.'"

    Now 49, Woodside has been around. He's worked in the financial industry. Yet his passion is kicking. He's tutored hundreds of young kickers and is part of an Alexandria, Va., group named Before U Kick that holds and visits camps and clinics.

    "We train more from a holistic view of the mind and heart, as well as the technical side," Woodside said. "We live our lives passionately, not technically."

    Woodside had one of those young kickers with him on the San Diego trip.

    "If there's a young man who is going to break my record it's going to be him," Woodside said. "And he has the perfect name: Chris Blewitt. He's going to Pitt and I've been working with him. West Virginia didn't want him."

    (A pause here. Yes, the kid's name is Blewitt. He's from West Potomac High in Alexandria. He was deemed good enough for Pitt to give him a scholarship rather than a walk-on invitation. And, for the record, he's - stunningly - not the first college kicker with that type of name. Harvard had a kicker named Anders Blewett.)

    "I'm just trying to pass on what I know and love: field-goal kicking and punting," Woodside said.

    The former Mountaineer has worked camps in Morgantown for around 15 years, including one on June 9. Among those he's tutoring is George Washington High's Reed Deer, who was involved in a tragic car accident that killed teammate Drew Morton.

    Woodside has also worked with names like Cleveland Browns kicker Shayne Graham. WVU fans might remember Graham for kicking a 44-yard field goal in 1999 that spoiled a dream of defeating Michael Vick and Virginia Tech.

    "Yes, that was him," Woodside said. "He sent me a picture of it. Forty-four yards. He crushed it."

    The best part of catching up with Woodside, though, was hearing him wax about his days in West Virginia. He married a Charleston woman, Teresa. Her mother, Elsie Atkins, lives in Charleston Gardens.

    "Once I got to West Virginia," Woodside said, "the fans and state moved my heart. I just want to pass that on to whoever I can.

    "I like to be invisible, though, in my role [as a kicking coach]. It's kind of like being a reporter. It's lonely at times. Others don't understand what it's like. But I speak [kickers'] language."

    Woodside remembered the season he set the record. It was the year of Jeff Hostetler and the season-opening upset of Oklahoma.

    "The offense would move from 20 [-yard line] to 20," he said. "I got opportunities."

    He paused.

    "I loved that time," he restarted. "We were an up-and-coming company at that time. Now, [WVU is] expected to win. Back then, we were trying to learn how to win.

    "What's great about West Virginia, though, is the fans love you from their hearts, whether you're a starter or not ... There is loyalty. They teach you to do unto others.

    "I took a wonderful wife with me from West Virginia, but I also learned love and loyalty."

    In a record-breaking fashion.

    Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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