By KOLBY PAXTON
The real-life Tim Riggins attends Sequoyah High School. His name is Karter Woodruff.
Not familiar with Riggins? He was a character in the hit NBC series, “Friday Night Lights,” a running back, and the resident tough guy for the Permian Panthers. During the series, Riggins develops, over time, into a hardened team leader; a progression that, in many ways, resembles Woodruff’s evolution since arriving at Sequoyah.
“I thought I was tough before I got here,” he said. “But once I started playing with these guys, I found out I wasn’t.”
For Woodruff, it was the guidance of a man whom he considers to be his greatest influence as a student-athlete that promoted his growth within the program. That man will be on the opposing sideline tonight at Thompson Field.
That man is Westville head coach John Gleason.
“When he was here he had a big impact on me,” said Woodruff. “I played on the defensive line my sophomore year and he made me a lot tougher than I was. He made me a lot tougher, and a lot more disciplined. He showed me the meaning of work ethic.”
Woodruff’s head coach, Brent Scott, also speaks highly of his former assistant.
“Coach Gleason was an excellent football coach for us,” he said. “One of the best I’ve been around. He was very influential to these seniors because he was a part of their lives so much. We’re excited to see him again, and I know our kids are, too.”
Unfortunately for Gleason’s new team, Woodruff feels as though he has something to prove when he and his former coach are reunited.
“I definitely want to show him that I’ve gotten better, and that what he taught me has worked out,” he said. “I definitely want to beat him, but I want to shake his hand after the game and say thanks for everything.”
Through five games, Woodruff leads the Indians with 20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, along with 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
“He’s a guy that we look for to make plays,” said Scott. “You’re supposed to make plays at the linebacker position and he does a heck of a job. He’s played a different defensive position each year that he’s been here, so he’s had a lot of pressure on him in terms of learning curves. But he’s done a great job of adapting.”
Woodruff also has 188 rushing yards and three scores on just 20 carries, as the Indians’ secondary running back.
Two weeks ago, at Locust Grove, Woodruff had the best offensive game of his career, running for 121 yards and a touchdown; a performance made even more special by the presence of a particular spectator.
“My dad is from Locust Grove and he was there, so it was pretty special playing in front of him,” said Woodruff. “He doesn’t get to come watch me very much. He’s always working and busy. It was special, him being there.”
His father won’t be in attendance tonight, but don’t look for Woodruff’s production to tail off. Scott and offensive coordinator Randon Lowe have big plans for their powerful ball carrier.
“We’ve been waiting on him to be in this position,” said Scott. “We’re excited for him. He’ll continue to run the ball and get better and better. And as he gets better, Kyle Helsley will get better, as well, because it will prevent defenses from keying on him.”
Scott said that a backfield featuring both Woodruff and Helsley simultaneously is in the works.
“I’ll let the cat out of the bag a little bit here, but we’re looking to use both of them in the backfield at the same time down the road,” said Scott. “With both of them, and our quarterback that can run it, teams are going to have a hard time figuring out who to key on.”
Scott calls Woodruff one of the hardest workers that he’s been around, a gym rat with an eye for the game tape.
“When I walk out the door in the evening, he’s lifting weights,” said Scott. “When I get here in the morning, he’s watching film.”
That sort of unwavering commitment to his craft has allowed Woodruff to excel at more than just football.
“I’d probably say I favor baseball because I’m planning to play baseball in college,” he said. “Football is close to my heart. I don’t really have a favorite. But the opportunity to play baseball in college makes me lean that way a little more.”
The slugging centerfielder said that he has received contact from multiple schools looking to add him to their respective rosters next fall, but he is far from making a choice.
“A couple of colleges are talking to me,” he said. “I’ve got one offer, but I still want to make a few more visits and see what it’s like.”
First things first, though, as Woodruff will be heavily leaned upon by a group that has only one objective in mind: winning a championship.
“I think this team is better than last year because we’re tighter than we were last year,” said Woodruff. “We have a lot of seniors and we know it’s our last year, so we want to make this year really special. We’re working our hardest to make it that way.”
Getting to know Karter Woodruff
We asked Sequoyah's two-sport star athlete, Karter Woodruff, a series of questions about everything from his favorite food to his favorite super hero. As it turns out, he's a New York Yankees fan, but we won't hold that against him.
What's your favorite food? Mexican casserole.
Who is your favorite musician? 2 Chainz. We listen to it while we work out.
Favorite super hero? Batman, because he's a regular person and he's still a super hero.
Favorite pro sports team: New York Yankees.
Favorite athlete: Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
Favorite movie: Summer Catch.
Favorite television show: Sportscenter.
Touchdown or homerun? I've hit so many homeruns, I'll say scoring a touchdown. There's nothing like scoring a touchdown on Friday night.