Mark Story

Mark Story: Trying to climb coaching ladder at Morehead, Woodson finds name he built at UK opens doors

Andre Woodson, center, was a graduate assistant on Joker Phillips' staff last year. He was  tempted to stay on.
Andre Woodson, center, was a graduate assistant on Joker Phillips' staff last year. He was tempted to stay on.

When Andre Woodson accepted the job as Morehead State wide receivers coach, he figured "the name" he built as a star quarterback at Kentucky would open recruiting doors inside the commonwealth.

He wasn't sure what to expect, however, when metropolitan Atlanta was assigned to him as one of his primary recruiting areas.

Yet the quarterback who directed Kentucky to its upset of eventual national champion LSU in 2007 and to back-to-back Music City Bowl wins (2006 and '07) says he's been in for a pleasant Peach State surprise.

"I introduce myself to coaches (in Georgia), and you see them frown, they kind of look at me and go 'Andre, Andre Woodson, I know that name," Woodson said Wednesday with a laugh. "Then you sort of see the light come on and they go 'Were you the quarterback at Kentucky?'"

Had his life gone according to the plan he envisioned when he was starring for Rich Brooks at UK, Woodson would not currently be on the road trying to convince teens to play football for Morehead.

He would be an NFL quarterback. "I thought I'd have a 10-year career at least," he said.

Instead, questions about an elongated throwing motion helped sabotage Woodson's draft standing. He went in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft to the New York Giants, spent some time on NFL practice squads but ultimately did not stick in the league.

"I almost never watch NFL games on Sunday," Woodson said. "I see guys I played with, guys I played against, and it's frustrating. I don't know why it happened the way it did, but maybe the plan for me was to be a coach. That's how I'm looking at it."

Woodson, 28, spent last season's dispiriting UK football season (2-10, 0-8 SEC) as a graduate assistant on Joker Phillips' staff. After Phillips was dismissed, Woodson says new Kentucky head man Mark Stoops offered him a chance to stay in Lexington for a second season as a GA.

That offer became even more enticing once Neal Brown, with his version of the Air Raid offense, signed on as UK offensive coordinator. Had Woodson stayed at Kentucky, he would have had a chance to learn a spread-offense passing attack from Brown.

"It was very tempting," Woodson said of staying at UK.

When ex-Morehead State offensive coordinator Rob Tenyer was hired to replace Matt Ballard as the Eagles head man, he reached out to Woodson to offer him a full-time assistant's job coaching the wide-outs at MSU.

Tenyer and Woodson had become acquainted when the Morehead offensive staff used to visit UK for career development opportunities.

"I sat down and talked with Coach Stoops and Coach Brown, and some of the coaches who were (at UK) before," Woodson said. "And most people thought the best move for me was to go ahead and get my career started. So I took the (Morehead) job."

Now, the guy who holds the all-time UK career record for throwing touchdown passes (79) will be in charge of teaching the Morehead players whose job it is to catch them.

"I'm actually really comfortable coaching receivers," Woodson said. "I played quarterback, I am very familiar with passing concepts. ... I understand better than anyone the importance of timing and precision in how receivers run routes. I think I'll be able get that across to the guys I'm coaching."

For right now, Woodson's career aspiration is to become a major-college offensive coordinator. "I'd really like the opportunity to implement and run my own system," he says.

Not a head coach?

"If that opportunity came, I'm not saying I wouldn't," Woodson said. "But I've seen some of the things a head coach has to deal with and, without really going into all that, there's a lot of stuff I'm not sure I want to have to do."

Woodson is on the road trying to woo high school players to come play at Morehead, a Football Championship Subdivision school that does not give football scholarships.

Besides Atlanta, Tenyer has assigned Woodson primary recruiting responsibilities in-state in Fayette, Jefferson and Hardin counties, the latter the county in which Woodson starred as a high school player at North Hardin.

"It's been good," he said. "I feel like I've had a good reception where I've been going. Lots of people do remember me from UK."

That seems true even in Georgia.

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