Let’s not call it the “Impossible Dream.”
But, without a doubt, Charles Woods is most certainly living the “Improbable Dream.”
Just consider the circumstances surrounding the West Virginia University defensive back.
This time two years ago, Woods just had finished an extremely successful sophomore season for FCS member Illinois State and was home for the holidays in Dallas.
Woods was riding high as an honorable mention All-American, and deservedly so. He had finished No. 2 in the Missouri Valley Conference with 17 passes defended. Besides making an eyebrow-raising 13 pass breakups, Woods had accumulated 48 tackles, four interceptions and 4.5 tackles for loss. He even picked off three passes in the FCS playoffs.
Obviously, Woods was capable of playing at the FBS level. He knew it. And, more important, WVU knew it. So, after redshirting in 2020, Woods enrolled at WVU in the summer of 2021.
So this is one of those “Cinderfella” stories, right?
Uh, not exactly. The 5-foot-11, 193-pound redshirt junior had to feel his way and pay his dues first.
Actually, Woods’ big break didn’t occur until the seventh game of the Mountaineers’ season. That’s when starting corner Nicktroy Fortune was injured in WVU’s game at TCU.
It was Woods’ cue. In the second half, he made five tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. A performance like that has a tendency to stick in a coach’s memory, right, Neal Brown?
“When Nicktroy got injured,” remembered WVU’s head coach, “[Woods] was forced in there and I thought, ‘You get your opportunity, now what do you do with it?’ He made the most of his.”
Did he ever.
Woods “carpe diemed” the moment so significantly, now he will be in the starting lineup when WVU plays Minnesota at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix.
“I’m just enjoying every day of it — the memories and all the guys at practices,” said Woods. “It will be my first bowl game, so I’m just excited for the blessing.”
Imagine the leap. From FCS to FBS to Power Five to his first bowl game. Woods’ mind must have been racing with anticipation.
“Coming in I was thinking ... I don’t want to say tougher,” he said. “I’d say there are more elite athletes on the field at this level. The FCS might have one or two or three athletes on each side. But it covered around the whole field at this level.
“It was a big difference, but I think I made a good adjustment to it — you know, the competition, the speed.”
Was there a “wow” moment when Woods looked at the competition and realized he wasn’t overmatched?
“Going into summer and fall camps,” said Woods, “when I was finally getting back in the groove of playing football with 7-on-7, it popped into my mind that I can actually compete at this level and that I can play at an elite level on this level.
“But I’d say the first game is probably what did it. Just coming out to the crowd ... the game-day atmosphere is different, much different.”
Woods was hooked. And look what has happened. Now he is getting bowl gifts as Christmas presents.
“We got the massage gun,” said Woods excitedly. “That was great. It allows us to recover at home instead of having to be at the facilities all day.
“And I’m just looking forward to going to a [Phoenix] Suns game. I’ve never been to a professional basketball game. I’m really just excited to go through the activities with my teammates and experiencing all the bowl activities and, of course, the game.”
Ah, yes, the game.
But first let’s thank Charles Woods.
What would Christmas be without a “rags-to-shoulder-pads” story?