DIV. II STAR WOODHEAD LOOKS TO RUN WITH JETS
By MARK CANNIZZARO
DAN-GEROUS: Danny Woodhead , the NCAA's all-time leading rusher from Chadron State in Nebraska, participates in a running drill during a Jets mini-camp session yesterday in Hempstead.
May 4, 2008 --
Danny Woodhead hasn't had the look of the most imposing player wearing a green or white practice jersey as the JetsNew York Jets rookies and free agents have been participating in this weekend's minicamp at Weeb Ewbank Hall at Hofstra.
But he shouldn't be counted out despite his 5-foot-7 1/2, 195-pound frame.
That's a direct warning from Woodhead's coach, regarding the dynamic running back from tiny Division II Chadron State College in Nebraska. Despite his small stature, Woodhead is hoping to become another NFL success story, like Jets great Wayne Chrebet.
"I'm telling you, the teams that passed on him made a mistake," Chadron State coach Bill O'Boyle told The Post by phone from Nebraska. "You're not going to find a better athlete. He's one of those guys that, when you see him in practice, every day he's going to do something that's going to make you shake your head. He's one of those kids."
The numbers tell a good part of the story. Woodhead finished his collegiate career as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher with 7,962 yards. In 2006, he rushed for 2,756 yards, an NCAA record for any level. In the NFL, running backs are measured by how many 100-yard rushing games they have had. In his career, Woodhead had 19 200-yard games, averaged 181 yards per game and scored 109 touchdowns.
Nevertheless, as the NFL Draft unfolded last weekend and 252 players were picked by the 32 NFL teams, Woodhead's name never was called.
But he's OK about that.
"I've had so many people doubt me, this really isn't something new to me," Woodhead said.
"The guy's just been doubted so much it just makes me sick," O'Boyle said. "The more he's doubted the more he's going to step up. He's one of those guys. I talked to him (before he left for New York), and he was going in there with the right frame of mind. He's got nothing to lose. He's going in with a chip on his shoulder.
"He's always had that. He might not admit it, but I saw it when we played Division I teams. There was just something in him that he was go out, and he was going to show the people that, 'Hey, you guys made a huge mistake.' "
O'Boyle is right in that when you speak to Woodhead his humble nature doesn't make one believe he has a chip on his shoulder.
"I'm just excited to get the chance," Woodhead said. "I'm just going to work hard and not change who I am."
Asked if he plays the game with a chip on his shoulder, Woodhead said, "I don't know if it was a chip, but I knew I could play the game. I really believe I can play at a really high level."
When O'Boyle was told Woodhead doesn't sound like a kid who has a chip on his shoulder, he said that's not the case.
"Don't let him fool you," O'Boyle said. "You're not going to find a more competitive kid. He reminds me so much when he runs of Barry Sanders. He's a slasher that can go lateral just as fast as he does straight ahead."
Woodhead also doesn't dwell on his NCAA rushing record.
"The record has worn off," Woodhead said. "If you ask any NFL player, they're not going to care what I did in college. This is a new start."
Coach Eric Mangini doesn't sound like he's counting Woodhead out because of his size or the fact he played in a Division II program.
"When you have that kind of production that's hard to do whatever level you're at," Mangini said.
"He's a little smaller than (Jets 6-foot-3 1/2, 264-pound first-round draft pick Vernon) Gholston," Mangini said jokingly. "Leon (Washington, the Jets RB) isn't the biggest guy to get off the bus. I've been around a lot of players people may consider undersized who have become incredibly effective.
"He has a great story. This is an excellent opportunity for him."