He didn’t say as much directly, but Wesley Woodyard disagrees with Charles Barkley.
The former NBA star-turned-analyst famously once said, “I am not a role model.” Woodyard is, and he knows it.
The former Wildcat, now about to begin his fifth season with the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, not only realizes youngsters look up to him, he relishes the fact. And he got a full dose of their appreciation at the football camp he held recently at UK’s Nutter Training Center.
“Just to see the smiles on their faces, knowing they appreciate people giving back,” means a lot to him, Woodyard said. “Me, I was once a kid, sitting in their spot, guys telling me I didn’t have a chance to play in the NFL. Just getting a chance to see guys you look up to means a lot.”
For Woodyard, it was Marty Carter who provided the encouragement. Like Woodyard, Carter is a Lagrange, Georgia, native who spent 11 years playing strong safety for three NFL teams, including Woodyard’s (then) beloved Atlanta Falcons. Woodyard attended one of Carter’s camps, and came away believing in himself. The result is a career in the NFL, where he serves as the special teams captain for the Broncos.
“I love being a role model,” he said. “I take pride in doing that, trying to do the right things every day. Nobody’s perfect. I just keep my head up to the sky and pray about things.”
Woodyard knows that one wrong move can change everything, and he tries to act accordingly. “To me it’s something that comes normally,” he said. “I love playing football and I love my free life. I don’t want to do anything stupid that will take that away from me. I love being the person that I am and giving back to the community.”
Woodyard is well-known in the greater Denver community for his foundation, 16Ways, which is the root of his charity work. For each of the past two years, he’s been the Broncos’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
It’s a great spot for a guy who, despite leading the Southeastern Conference in tackles both his junior and senior seasons, wasn’t drafted. He signed with the Broncos as a free agent. And now he’s sharing his experiences with youngsters.
“The biggest thing is that they enjoy the game,” he said. “Football taught me a lot of life lessons.”
He’s looking forward to some day in the not-so-distant future that a young man approaches him with a story about attending the Wesley Woodyard Football Camp.
“That would mean a lot to me,” he said, “if a kid came up to me as I got older and said, ‘I learned something at your camp and I just wanted to thank you.’ ”
(Woodyard talks more about his a career with the Broncos, Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning and new Bronco teammate Jacob Tamme at bigblueinsider.com)