Welcome home, Wesley

By Kevin Eckleberry

June 15, 2014

It was good to be home.

During his playing days at LaGrange High, Wesley Woodyard had a lot of memorable moments at Callaway Stadium.

In his final game at the stadium, in fact, Woodyard tackled a Swainsboro player in the end zone for a safety, giving his team the only points in a 2-0 victory.

LaGrange went on to win a state championship in 2003, and Woodyard was the Class AAA defensive player of the year.

On Saturday, Woodyard was back at the stadium, albeit on the artificial turf that didn’t exist when he was playing.

When Woodyard was in high school, it was a natural-grass surface at the stadium, and that made for some sloppy Friday nights when it was raining.

“They’re a little bit spoiled now,” Woodyard said with a grin. “We had the mud field.”

Woodyard was back home for his “Changing Lives One Play At A Time” youth camp, which is part of his 16ways Foundation.

It was the second of three camps Woodyard is putting on this offseason.

The first one was in Denver, where he spent the first six years of his NFL career.

The third one, which will be in July, will be in Lexington, Ky. where Woodyard played for the Kentucky Wildcats.

“It’s a blessing to be able to stand in front of kids and help mentor them,” Woodyard said. “And just show them that you can be whatever you want to be.”

At Saturday’s camp, Woodyard had plenty of help, including members of his family, former high-school teammates, as well others affiliated with the 16ways Foundation.

There was also a cheerleading camp going on at the same time.

“I had a lot of family here. My foundation was here,” Woodyard said. “They make it very easy for me.”

Part of what made Saturday so special for Woodyard was being at Callaway Stadium.

He not only played high-school football at the stadium, he also participated in youth camps when he was a youngster, and he came up through the Troup County Parks and Recreation ranks.

“I remember when I went to Ruben Hairston’s camp, and Marty Carter came out,” Woodyard said. “It brings back a lot of memories. It’s always good to come back home.”

Woodyard recalls playing youth football at the stadium and hoping to one day have the Granger star on his helmet.

“I remember when I was a little kid one day wanting to play on this field, and now having a camp here, it all goes full circle,” Woodyard said.

Woodyard and the other instructors kept the boys and girls busy during the camp, which lasted five hours.

There was even a tug-of-war showdown between the instructors, and the dozens of girls taking part in the cheerleading camp.

The instructors won, barely.

At the close of the camp, Woodyard spoke to the campers, and each of them received an autographed photo.

When everything was done, Woodyard took time to meet with anyone who wanted to talk with him, and he posed for a bunch of photos with children and adults.

Next up for Woodyward will be the youth camp in Kentucky, and he’ll continue to work with young people in other ways through his foundation.

He was a huge part of the Denver community, and he’ll no doubt be just involved in his new city.

“Working in the community and giving back is definitely in my heart,” Woodyard said. “I enjoy it.”