Somewhere along the way he took a detour to the defensive side of the ball and his work in the weight room helped him become a physically stronger player who now is headed to The University of the Cumberlands to play defense for a team that just missed winning the national championship game in NAIA, played in Rome this year.
“I came to Cass to be a tailback in my sophomore year,” Woodard said. “I kept growing bigger and stronger through the weight room. They kept moving me around, and I ended up going to strong safety.
“I enjoyed it and I ended up being pretty good at it. I kept pushing myself and motivating myself to work hard in the weight room and everything worked out.”
Woodard was a standout as a defensive player for Cass. He intercepted three passes against Heritage last fall.
It is a bright memory for the Colonel.
“My coach kept telling me that whole week, ‘If you play like you can, nobody will be able to stop you. You’ll be a ball hawk,’” he recalled. “I listened to what he said all week, and I ended up having three interceptions and tying my school record.”
Woodard is heading in the fall to The Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., where he expects to play as a defensive back for the Patriots.
Woodard said he is comfortable with coaches at The Cumberlands.
P.J. Hughes, recently promoted to defensive coordinator at The Cumberlands, is the son of Bobby Hughes, who was Woodard’s defensive coach at Cass last fall but since has been promoted to head coach of the Colonels.
“I thought it was a good fit for me,” Woodard said. “Their recruiting coach recruited me pretty hard. I like the environment and the people. It’s really cool.”
He said he also likes the interaction between the players and coaches.
“The coaches [at The Cumberlands] have a good relationship with their players,” he said. “I feel like I fit in pretty well with them and what they stand for.”
He said he also is impressed with the school’s success in recent years and expects to be challenged there.
“I like competition,” he added. “I was raised to play with a lot of competition. I’m from Adairsville. I’ve competed all my life. It just seems as long as I’m going to a good school that played for a national championship, all I have to do is keep improving and my game will get better.”
Rick Casko, the Cass athletic director and former head coach who coached Woodard, believes the Colonel has made a good choice.
“The Cumberlands have been really interested in Keylon all along. He has a good upside. Keylon is going to be a much bigger kid. He’s going to get big and thick. He can jump. He can run. He’s very, very athletic.”
Casko said Woodard contributed a lot to Cass High’s defense.
“He had some tremendous games for us,” Casko said. “He intercepted the ball three times against Heritage. He’s had some long pass receptions for us. We got him in on offense and kick returns and things of that nature.”
The coach also believes his best years are ahead for Woodard.
“He’ll be able to put on some weight,” Casko said. “He’s put together very well. He’s very strong. He has a great vertical jump. He’s got a good 40 time.”
He said he expects to see Woodard playing in the secondary or in a run support role as he develops physically.
“I think he’ll be thicker and will be able to help cover passes,” Casko said. “He’ll also be able to help stop the run game.”
Casko said Woodard will prove a good choice for The Cumberlands.
“This really fits well for Keylon because of the comfort he’ll have with the coaches,” he said. “You want your kids to go somewhere they’ll feel comfortable. The Cumberlands run a top notch program. They just played for the national championship this year and have a tremendous program in NAIA football.”
Woodard is keeping his options open after his playing days conclude.
“I want to major in sports management,” he said. “If football were to be an option after college, I’d love to continue with it.”