Here’s a bit of Boise State football trivia you probably didn’t need to know: Senior guard Andrew Woodruff throws up before every game.
But now it’s more of a pregame ritual than an upset stomach, he says.
“I used to be so nervous when I was a younger guy,” he explained. “But now it’s one of those things that I’ve been doing for so long, it’s kind of like a habit. It’s just the whole environment before the game the excitement, the sound of the crowd, the smells. All of a sudden, oops, I’ve got something in my throat. Now I just get it over with, move on, and get ready for the game.”
Woodruff, a three-year starter who has played three different positions on the Broncos’ offensive line, is no longer that jittery youngster with the queasy stomach. The pregame vomiting notwithstanding, he now brings the stabilizing combination of experience and leadership to a young and untested offensive line that will need to coalesce quickly for the Bronco offense to put up its usual numbers.
A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Woodruff is the lone returning starter from last year’s offensive line. Gone are All-American tackle Ryan Clady, who left school early and was selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos, along with Jeff and Pete Cavender, Tad Miller and Dan Gore, who finished their eligibility at the end of last season.
“There was a certain comfort level with those guys,” Woodruff said. “We played together for so long, it seemed like we all knew what each other was thinking when we played. Now I have to get used to some new guys.”
Now it’s up to Woodruff, who broke into the starting lineup at right guard in 2005 as a redshirt freshman, to make sure his new linemates maintain the same level of excellence and cohesiveness established by his former teammates.
“I think my main focus and responsibility will basically be to teach the young guys how we do things here, because they can all play football,” he said following Tuesday’s morning session of summer drills. “They just need to understand the method with which we do things the kind of work you have to put in to prepare for games and just the mentality of the Boise State O’ line that’s been here for decades.”
Head coach Chris Petersen agrees. “Woody has played a lot of football for us, so he knows the culture that we need on that offensive line,” he said. “He knows the leadership we need from him, especially now with all the guys who are gone; he’s a critical element in that whole cog.”
While last year’s offensive line was solid and experienced, many of the players as the skill positions were untested at the start of the season. This year it’s the other way around.
“It’s important that they [the new linemen] understand that we have a lot of talented guys at the skill positions,” said Woodruff, “and for us to be successful as a team and for them to do their jobs, we [as an offensive line] have to be as good or better than [our opponents] every game.”
So far, Woodruff likes what he sees during the first few days of summer camp. “The team as a whole is working extremely hard and going 100 mph,” he said. “Even though we’re making some mistakes, I think we’re all trying to do our best. You can tell we’re all leaving it on the field, selling out, giving it our all.
“It’s been awfully hot out there, but we’re doing our best to recover and come back strong the next day. And that excites me because I know if we do this for 26 days, we’re going to get a lot better and be very prepared for Idaho State [in Boise State’s Aug. 30 opener]. It’s going to be a long camp, but it’s going to be exciting.”
As far as personal goals, Woodruff has already met one, dropping his weight from more than 330 to 305. “I wanted to lose some weight, which I needed to do to be as consistent as I can be,” he said.
“We’re extremely excited about how Woody has trimmed down,” said Petersen. “That’s going to help him tremendously. It’s amazing that he could move as well as he did for as big as he was, but now that he’s lost some weight, it just makes him quicker on his feet.”
Woodruff was the second-round selection of the Montreal Allouettes and the 12th overall pick in the 2008 Canadian Football League draft. As a Canadian, Woodruff said he wouldn’t mind playing in the CFL when he’s done with his college career at Boise State. “But I think I’d be letting myself down if I didn’t give the NFL a chance,” he added. “I’m in the best shape of my life; at the least I’d like to go to the [NFL] workouts and show them who I am.”
But first there’s a little matter of reclaiming the Western Athletic Conference title for the Broncos in 2008. After winning five consecutive league championships, the Broncos finished second behind Hawaii last season, and Woodruff and his teammates have made it their top priority to finish atop the WAC this year.
“We want to win another championship,” he said. “I want another ring and to go to a good bowl game before I leave. That’s what we all want.”
Spoken like a true leader.