Mill Valley’s Woods ‘anxious’ to kick-start K-State career

Justin Woods is used to getting places in a hurry.

Unfortunately for the Mill Valley High senior, his fleet feet can’t make the calendar turn any faster.

“It’s really tough for me right now. I wish I could graduate tomorrow and get down there,” said Woods on Wednesday night, some 12 hours after signing a letter of intent to play football at Kansas State University this fall.

“I’ve been waiting for this since I was a little kid. It feels like the last couple of months go by the slowest because you’re anxious.”

“Slow” and “Woods” don’t often find themselves in the same discussion. A three-year starter at running back for the Jaguars, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound speedster also won the Class 5A gold medal in both the 100 and 200 meters at last year’s state track and field championships in Wichita.

That extra gear left Woods with an impressive list of college suitors. However, he was appropriately swift in choosing his college destination, giving new Kansas State coach Ron Prince an oral commitment last spring, selecting the Wildcats over Kansas University, Missouri, Colorado and Michigan State.

He justified the early interest last fall by rushing for 1,344 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Jaguars, who finished 6-3 and narrowly missed out on a Class 5A state playoff berth.

“The fact that he can run faster than just about everyone else is a unique quality,” said Mill Valley coach George Radell, latching on to Woods’ biggest asset. “He just makes plays occasionally that nobody else can usually make.”

Headed to the next level

A list of area high school football players who signed letters of intent Wednesday:Name – Position, High School; CollegeAustin DeGraeve – WR, De Soto; BakerDustin Ester – De Soto; OttawaBrent Garrison – LB, Perry-Lecompton;Fort Scott C.C.Jake Hamm – WR, Oskaloosa; Fort Scott C.C.Zeb Kissinger – TE, Tonganoxie; BakerRobbie Madden-Martin – DE, Perry-Lecompton; Fort Scott C.C.Justin McDaniel – DE, Tonganoxie; BakerBrandon Reed – Baldwin; Fort Scott C.C.Justin Woods – RB, Mill Valley; Kansas State

Another strength is Woods’ belief that he belongs on a big stage such as the Big 12 Conference.

“He’s very excited about the opportunity. The last thing he is is awestruck. He’s confident. He’s looking forward to getting the opportunity to compete,” Radell said. “He wants to play. He wants to show that he can contribute from the get-go.”

During his on-campus visit with the Kansas State players and coaches, Woods – who also played cornerback for Mill Valley – spent the bulk of his time focused on offense, leading him to believe his future with the Wildcats will be on that side of the ball.

However, his immediate impact may come on special teams, specifically as a kick returner. It’s a role he knows well, having returned five kickoffs for touchdowns during his junior season – thereby ensuring that no one booted the ball his way last fall.

“It’s been awhile since I got one and ran one back, so I’m ready for that,” Woods said.

His first opportunity will come June 7, when he’ll report to Manhattan and begin summer workouts with an eye toward becoming the newest youngster to earn Prince’s praise.

“The only thing that they told me so far is it’s whoever comes in there and proves themselves and works the hardest,” Woods said. “Coach Prince will play the freshmen.”