By Rich Kurtzman
Wesley Woodyard, LB #52
Weight: 230 pounds
Hometown: LaGrange, Georgia
Experience: 5 years
Wesley Woodyard is a wonderful football player, and his work ethic is what has made him special.
Woodyard’s football life begins back at his roots, in LaGrange, Georgia, where he played outside linebacker for his hometown LaGrange High School. As a senior, he was named AAA Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state player, named to the team by the local media. During his four years in high school, his team went an amazing 51-3 overall and won two state championships.
At the age of 18, Woodyard went 450 miles to the north and attended the University of Kentucky, where he would continue to shine. After starting his college career at safety, he was moved to linebacker and would record 34 tackles his freshman season. As a sophomore, Woodyard earned a full-time starting spot as an inside linebacker, recording an even 100 tackles while recovering four fumbles. In fact, he improved every season at Kentucky, boosting his tackle totals to 122 and 139 respectively in his final two seasons, even being named defensive MVP of the 2006 Music City Bowl.
But, for whatever reason, Woodyard went undrafted in 2008. The Denver Broncos made a smart move and signed him and he’s been a major contributor for them ever since. He’s so important to this team that he was named captain of the special teams before the season began. In fact, he is only the second player in Denver’s franchise history to be named a captain in his first five years, joining Hall of Famer Floyd Little.
It’s fitting because Woodyard is similar to Little in many ways. He’s a leader on and off the football field. His dedication to the Broncos is second to none, why he has and will do anything and everything his squad needs, including playing both special teams and defense. Woodyard’s a worker, evidenced by his ability to improve as an individual throughout his five years in the Mile High City.
Last season, he enjoyed a career year of 97 tackles and three forced fumbles, but he’s on pace to break those personal bests this year. Through seven games the weakside linebacker has racked up a team-high 61 tackles, career-highs in sacks (3.0) and interceptions (2) as well as forcing one fumble and defending three passes.
His 13-tackle, one sack, one pick performance against the Saints was Woodyard’s top performance of this season as he was the catalyst for the defense dominating New Orleans. He’s the leader of that defensive unit that has played better in their last two games than in years, forcing eight turnovers and limiting high-scoring offenses to 38 combined points.
Yes, Woodyard’s been one of Denver’s standout players and they’ll need him to continue to perform at such a high level if the Broncos want to win the AFC West and do some damage in the playoffs.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.