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COC football: Jake Woolley - Time is everything

COC linebacker is trying to transform into an elite player

Posted: August 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Though lightly recruited out of Moorpark High School, College of the Canyons sophomore Jake Woolley has elevated to a defensive force.

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There is a digital clock on the wall of the College of the Canyons football office that is relentlessly counting down the minutes remaining before kickoff of Saturday’s 7 p.m. season opener against Golden West College at Cougar Stadium.

The clock’s significance is different for every player and coach who walks into the room.

For Cougars star linebacker Jake Woolley, it’s a constant reminder of the scarcity of time as he works to get himself and his teammates ready for what the players are hoping will be a deep run into the postseason.

“I look at that clock and I worry about the next step I have to take, whether it’s a workout, a classroom, a test, a run down the field or a sprint in practice,” Woolley says. “It’s a reminder that time is so precious and the clock’s always ticking, and you’ve got to keep honing your craft, especially if this is your last chance to make it.”

In Woolley’s case, making it means putting together the kind of sophomore season that will earn him a Division I scholarship, a goal that seemed unlikely when he wrapped up his playing career at Moorpark High School in 2010.

That’s because Woolley was undersized by conventional linebacker standards when he graduated, so says College of the Canyons head coach Garett Tujague.

“This kid left Moorpark High School at 6-3 and 190 pounds soaking wet, and nobody, not Division 1, not Division 1-AA, nobody wanted the kid because of his size,” Tujague says.

Since immersing himself in COC’s strength and conditioning program under the college’s Director of Speed, Strength &

Conditioning Robert dos Remedios, Woolley, 19, has transformed himself into a 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound force to be reckoned with on defense.

Tujague now describes Woolley as a self-made man who eats and drinks football.

“Jake covers ground, he’s smart, he’s fast, he’ll hit you in the mouth, and every single time he works out, he tries to destroy himself for the cause,” says the sixth-year head coach.

But Woolley almost blew his chance to do any of those things at COC.

He was recruited out of high school by Canyons Special Teams and Passing Game Coordinator Terry Gourley, who went to Woolley’s games, interviewed him and brought him to Tujague’s attention.

Woolley says that at the time, he really didn’t think anything of it because he was convinced he was headed for a bigger school. Then, national signing day came and went, nothing happened, and so he decided to pay COC a visit.

“I saw Coach Dos in the weight room, and he was going hard on all the players, yelling, screaming, just doing what he does, and I was like, ‘I’m never coming to this school,’ and I left,” Woolley says. “But as time got closer, I began to think that this actually might be the place for me. I’m undersized, they work hard all the time, and I need that in my life. So I chose COC and just rolled with it.”

The Cougars were rolled over in 2011 as they posted their first losing record in 32 years, missing the playoffs with a 4-6 overall mark and finishing last in the National Division, Northern Conference at 1-4.

Despite the hard times, Woolley, as a freshman, developed a reputation as an outstanding open-field tackler, closing out the season tied for the team lead in total takedowns with 49.

Middle linebacker Nathanial Lealao says Woolley began last season with a calculated, methodical approach that included working hard to learn the defensive scheme and getting comfortable with his role in the middle of the field.

“Jake is one of the most humble people I’ve ever played with,” Lealao says. “He was pretty quiet when I first met him, but when you get to know him, he really opens up.”

That could explain Woolley’s other reputation — that of a budding and talented freestyle rapper. It’s a side of him that emerges in the safe presence of his teammates.

Woolley says that one day while hanging with friends, they played some instrumental music on a computer and started rapping for fun, and he stuck with it.

“I’m not really too shy when it comes to being in front of people,” Woolley says. “Last year, we had a freshman talent show and I did that in front of the whole team, and I killed it.”

Woolley believes there’s an intrinsic connection between rapping’s metrical requisite and the rhythmic nature of football — more to the point, how a linebacker anticipates the movement of an opposing offensive line and reacts in cadence and harmony with it.

Tujague confides there have been times when Woolley’s rapping ability has gotten the team out of a tight spot.

“They’ll do something, um, unbecoming or whatever, and they’ll owe me 100 up-downs, and if Jake can get them out of it with a rap, then we’re good,” says Tujague through a toothy grin, tongue firmly in cheek.

So with a new season of rhythm and timing and running clocks about to get underway, Woolley will continue the process of making the best plays he can to open up as many doors for himself as possible.

“I’ve sacrificed so much for this program because it means something to me,” Woolley says. “I’ve never missed a day in my whole time here, and I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do to at this point to get to the next level. I want people to remember me as the guy who just put his head down, led by example and worked his butt off every single day, through thick and thin, no matter what.”

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