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A Woody Story that Might Surprise You

In my family we have a lot of stories about Ohio State, Woody, Bo, and other coaches in our "extended family." Here is a story from my dad that stands out in my memory.

Image: Zak Herbstreit

The Buckeyes were playing in the Rose Bowl and many of the guys had never been on a plane. It was very exciting and they were all nervous about the travel, as well as how intense Woody might be once they hit that beautiful field in Pasadena.

The boys checked into the hotel and ran to check out their rooms. Many of them had never stayed in a hotel. Before too long, the coaches went around to the hotel rooms and told the boys that Coach Hayes wanted to see everyone in a downstairs room.

"We were scared," my dad told me. "We hadn't even had time to get into trouble, and we were all looking at each other trying to figure out what Coach wanted to talk about."

They gathered in a small ballroom on the hotel's first floor. Had someone done something wrong on the way to the hotel from the airport? The other coaches had no idea, and if they did, they weren't giving any hints. They seemed to be just as anxious as the players.

We were all trying to figure out what he wanted to talk about.

The players filed into the room and found seats. Woody was sitting at the front of the room, and after everyone was seated, the coach slowly got to his feet. Everyone fell silent and looked at each other nervously.

Woody started talking about his mother. He had been thinking about her a lot. He began talking about how hard mothers love their children, how ruthlessly they protect them, and how much they do for them.

He talked about the sacrifices mothers all over the world made as a matter of course that their children would never know. He talked for a few more minutes about mothers and where their hearts were. A mother's priority is always her children and family.

His eyes misted over as he tried to make eye contact with every person in that room.

He talked about the sacrifices mothers all over the world made for their children.

"Now, I want you to all line up," he said. “ I'm going to give each of you $2. (Keep in mind, this was the early 60s.)

Go buy something special for your mother, write a nice note and tell her you value her and love her and understand what she has done for you. Bring your note and gift back and we will send it for you."

His eyes misted over as he tried to make eye contact with every person in that room.

The boys were relieved that they weren't in trouble and some of the newer players were stunned by Woody’s vulnerability and the love he was freely showing not only to mothers—but also to them.

These are the kind of stories that people never told about Woody, but those close to him know.

He had a soft heart and a special place for his family and each of his players. This why they came back to see him for years to come.

Go Bucks.


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This is an honest blog about growing up in a sports family, being an imperfect parent, taking risks, and the complicated, beautiful mess that is life.

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