In sports circles, the word “sparkplug” is commonly thrown around to describe a player that energizes others with words or emotions. Then there are the players who earn the title “playmaker,” an honor that denotes an individual capable of changing a game at a moment’s notice–period.
In sports circles, the word “sparkplug” is commonly thrown around to describe a player that energizes others with words or emotions.
Then there are the players who earn the title “playmaker,” an honor that denotes an individual capable of changing a game at a moment’s notice–period.
Rarely do those two terms fuse together to create one. But the Vikings think they may have one of these rare “playmaking sparkplugs,” and his name is Aaron Woods.
“He is a great young man,” said wide receivers coach Kevin Strasser. “And he is one of our leaders.” Woods plays the slot wide receiver position in offensive coordinator Mouse Davis’ complex, potent run-and-shoot offense, where he frequently shows off his big-play ability as the Vikings’ leader in catches over 25 yards.
But while Woods’ plays are typically big, his frame is not. Listed as a 5-foot-6 wide out, even though he refers to himself as being an inch shorter, Woods does not fit the mold of the prototypical wide receiver.
At times, that created problems, as Woods admits, “Coming out of high school, no one wanted a 5-foot-5 receiver.” However, there are some inherent benefits.
“It always made me work harder,” Woods said of his size.
Since coming to Portland State last season, Woods has found a home. His diminutive stature is actually a plus in Davis’ run-and-shoot scheme, as the criteria for wide receivers includes being quick, fast and intelligent.
Woods added that intelligence is key because in the run-and-shoot slot receivers must also be able to read defenses and adjust accordingly by switching his route or acting with pre-snap motion.
And this season Woods has displayed that he fits the bill, averaging a team-high 177.6 all-purpose yards–because he is also a kick returner–and almost 95 receiving yards a game.
“This is a perfect fit for me,” Woods said.
Davis’ offense is not only a great fit for Woods, but the legendary coach’s carefree personality also allows the young wide receiver to tap into some of his other strengths.
“I like him because I can look down on him–barely,” joked Davis, who is slightly pushing 5-6 himself. “He’s a life lover, that one.”
One of the things Woods does well in addition to catching the football is loosening up his teammates.
At practice, it is not uncommon to see Woods running around yelling, cracking jokes and making his teammates laugh or busting out some dance moves.
In fact, as the Vikings prepared for their matchup with Northern Arizona at practice Wednesday, Davis and Woods engaged in a bit of play fighting, with the coach wrapping the receiver in a headlock.
Woods feels one of the positives he brings to the team is his ability to lighten the mood when times are tense, something that makes working hard much easier.
“When things are getting slow it’s a snowball effect. I try to reverse that,” Woods said. “It becomes fun, and football is easier when it is fun.”
Aside from his abilities as a receiver and mood lightener, Strasser feels that Woods’ size and quick feet allow him to excel at kick returning.
And the numbers back up that assertion. Woods leads the Big Sky Conference with 26.6 yards per kickoff returns through 15 games this season. Unfortunately for him, Woods’ highlight as a kick returner thus far is also his lowlight.
Versus UC Davis back in September, Woods used his superb vision and ability to cut back–both thanks to playing running back at Sunset High School in Beaverton–to spring an 81-yard return.
Just as Woods neared the end zone an Aggie defender corralled him and punched the ball out of his arms. The ball rolled out of the end zone for a UC Davis touchback.
Woods has rebounded since that miscue, and he has not fumbled the ball again. He has averaged almost 82-return-yards over each of the last three games and broke a 48-yarder against Pac-10 opponent Washington State.
The “playmaking sparkplug” believes there is one reason he is the cream of the crop when it comes to returning kicks.
“I think I enjoy it more than everyone else,” Woods said.