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County's best lineman transfers to Jefferson

All-county tackle Donnie Woods says he left Pasco High for educational reasons.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 26, 2001


DADE CITY -- One of the county's best football players will play in Hillsborough County next season.

"I'll be at Jefferson next year," Pasco High lineman Donnie Woods said Monday.

photo
[Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
"There's just a lot of things Jefferson has to offer," Donnie Woods said, "and I think my decision is probably the best decision."
A two-way starter since his freshman year, Woods said he plans to play his final two prep seasons for Jefferson. He is already enrolled there, taking a summer physical education class.

The 17-year-old junior said the decision was made for educational reasons. Jefferson has a special magnet program, the International Academy of Finance, that has already accepted Woods.

The Pasco County school district had to agree to release Woods so he could transfer out of county.

But football was also a factor. Woods, after all, was a 6-foot-5, 275-pound sophomore and a Times All-Pasco County first-team offensive tackle. He leaves a Pirates program that hasn't made the playoffs since 1998 for a playoff powerhouse. He could also blossom into one of the area's top collegiate prospects.

"There's just a lot of things Jefferson has to offer," Woods said, "and I think my decision is probably the best decision."

At Jefferson, Woods will be reunited with brother Brian, a former Pasco assistant football coach and track coach. Brian Woods was recently hired as the Dragons' quarterback and secondary coach by head coach Mike Simmonds.

Donnie Woods will also join Dade City's Matt Glavich, the Dragons' quarterback who was a Class 3A honorable mention last season.

Just weeks ago during spring football, Woods was one of the most enthusiastic Pirates. He was adamant about improving Pasco's fortunes in 2001.

But on the last day of school, Woods told Pirates coach Ricky Thomas of his decision to transfer.

"It was hard for me to talk to him," Woods said. "He was a great coach."

Thomas has seen this before.

It seems like a repeat of the Glavich situation three years ago, when the Dade City prodigy transferred to Tampa Catholic after helping the Pasco junior varsity his freshmen year. Then last season, Thomas had to deal with star receiver Joe Bain contemplating a move to Tampa Catholic.

"I really don't like to comment on players when they leave," Thomas said. "I will say this about Donnie, he did a good job for me for two years. He's such an outstanding kid. I just wish him all the best.

"I'll leave it at that."

Thomas said he hopes the Woods family doesn't believe college recruiters would have overlooked their son because he played in Dade City.

"If you've got athletic ability, and you have the academics to go along with it, you can play in Timbuktu if you want," he said. "It doesn't matter. You're going to college, regardless of where you play (high school)."

Woods said no one associated with Jefferson -- including his brother -- influenced his choice. He said he and his parents decided Jefferson would best prepare him academically for college.

"My whole family sat down among ourselves and decided this would be a better thing for me and for the family," Woods said.

But complicating matters is the coaching history between Thomas and Woods' brother, Brian.

Thomas and Brian Woods agreed to part ways after the '98 season under less than amicable circumstances.

At the time, Brian Woods was Glavich's JV coach at Pasco and planned on joining the quarterback at Tampa Catholic for the 1999 season. However, he accepted a coaching job at Lakeland Kathleen instead.

Now Brian Woods will be reunited with Glavich at Jefferson, where the coach's brother could start at offensive tackle next season.

But Jefferson's newest assistant coach said he's not the reason his brother transferred.

"I didn't have any influence," Brian Woods said.

"I'll be honest, I'm sure the whole coaching staff at Pasco High thinks I had a big influence.

"But I think Coach Thomas has enough class to understand it is good to be with family, and though I won't be coaching Donnie, I do enjoy being with him."

But his brother said that football-wise, Donnie Woods would benefit as well.

"The situation down at Jefferson is definitely appealing to someone of Donnie's talent level," Brian Woods said. "Because you have two excellent offensive line coaches in (former Tampa Bay Buccaneer) Mike Simmonds and (former Tampa Catholic coach) Bob Henriquez. Those are two of the best O-line coaches in the area.

"(Donnie) works his butt off, and he wants to be the best he can be.

"He wants to go to college, he wants to be polished and be in a position to challenge someone his freshman year for a starting job."

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