Sports

Mark Story: Same question marks, vastly different outcomes for Tebow and Woodson

Andre Woodson
Andre Woodson

For anyone who was in Commonwealth Stadium on Oct. 20, 2007, Tim Tebow and Andre Woodson will always be linked.

That day, Florida's bull Gator and Kentucky's fancy passer produced what is, arguably, the greatest quarterback duel ever in Commonwealth (no slight to Peyton Manning and Tim Couch in 1997, but Tennessee's 59-31 win wasn't nearly as competitive a game).

Tebow threw for four touchdowns, ran for another and augmented his ultimately successful campaign for the 2007 Heisman Trophy by leading Florida to a 45-37 victory over a UK team that was coming off an upset of No. 1 LSU.

Woodson was only slightly less brilliant. Standing in against a fierce Florida pass rush that sacked him six times, the former North Hardin star passed for 415 yards and five touchdowns.

When it came time for NFL Draft evaluations, Tebow and Woodson again seemed to share a commonality. As passers, both were panned by many pro football analysts for elongated throwing motions.

Yet that is where the linkage between Woodson and Tebow stops.

In the 2008 NFL Draft, concerns about Woodson's throwing mechanics led to a free fall. Once speculated as a first-round pick, the Kentucky star slid all the way to the 198th overall pick, going to the New York Giants in the sixth round.

Despite similar concerns about his throwing motion, Tebow was the 25th overall selection in the 2010 draft, taken by the Denver Broncos in round one.

"Man, is that a touchy subject with me," Woodson said Tuesday. "It's tough for me to swallow how things that they just killed me over, didn't seem to affect other guys who they said the same things about."

Of course, where Woodson was strictly a drop-back passer, Tebow was a spread-option QB with a punishing running style. Even if Tebow never makes it as a conventional NFL QB, he could have a future in the pros as a fullback, an H-back or a Wildcat quarterback.

Now, Tebow has a five-year, $11.25 million contract (with $8.7 million guaranteed) with the Broncos.

Woodson, having already been cut from practice squads by the Giants and Washington Redskins, has never taken a regular-season snap in the NFL.

He recently was released by the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League. At the ripe old age of 26, he knows the clock is running on his NFL dream.

"It's tough to say it's time to move on," Woodson said. "But the way the NFL is, they make you move on. You only get so many opportunities."

Working against the former UK star is that the post-college pathways for quarterbacks to develop and earn their way into the NFL have contracted. An undrafted Kurt Warner refined his skills in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.

Both leagues are defunct.

Woodson tried the UFL, but even though Hartford Coach Chris Palmer said the ex-Cat was "throwing very, very well," the team cut him and kept the more experienced Josh McNown and the more athletic Ryan Perriloux.

What he finds frustrating is that no one questions his overall talent or arm strength, Woodson said. His issues have been his mechanics, from the speed of his release, to the length of his throwing motion, to his balance and footwork in the pocket.

When current UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders arrived from Tennessee before the QB's junior season, Woodson says the ex-Vols aide told him there were aspects of his throwing motion that would be troublesome to the pros.

"He helped me clean up some things," Woodson said of Sanders. "But I was already going into my junior year, it was too late" for a major overhaul.

Now Woodson believes he has improved his mechanics. He waits by the phone, hoping that sometime this season an NFL team will invite him for a tryout and give him a chance to show it.

If that doesn't happen, he's not saying it's over for him as a player, but he is at least considering what's next.

Next July 2, Woodson is slated to marry Erica McClellon, his college sweetheart. If playing isn't going to work out, Woodson still wants to stay in football, perhaps coaching at the college level.

In the meantime, the quarterback against whom Woodson dueled so memorably in Commonwealth Stadium on 10/20/07 is an NFL millionaire.

Woodson is living in an apartment in Louisville.

The ex-Kentucky star wishes Tebow no ill.

"But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't frustrating," Woodson said.

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