Jaywalking: Jersey bound
Getting used to traffic is just one adjustment confronting Scott Woodward this fall.
The former Mahar Regional School and UMass quarterback left western Mass. and headed off to Madison, N.J., where he took a job as offensive coordinator at Fairleigh Dickinson University at Florham.
Woodward is a 2005 Mahar graduate who destroyed Senator passing records, throwing for over 4,000 career yards and 46 touchdowns. He moved on to UMass, where he served as a backup QB and managed to throw for 902 yards and a pair of TDs. He also served as the team’s field-goal and extra-point holder for four years. Because the young man knows football, he began to pursue a coaching career after his 2009 UMass graduation.
To say that Scott Woodward was born for coaching would not be an understatement. His dad, Jim Woodward, is Mahar’s current athletic director who coached football there for 30 years before hanging up his whistle following the 2011 season. The school’s football field and track are now named the James Woodward Complex, which speaks to his success. If having a complex named after your father isn’t enough authentication, how about Scott’s sister Sarah, who coaches volleyball and track at Mahar?
It was no surprise then, that Woodward began serving as a Westfield State University graduate assistant, spending three years (2010-12) serving as QB coach/play caller. This past year, he began looking for a full-time coaching job among the collegiate ranks and it happened that he got a phone call from a friend about an opening at FDU at Florham. That friend also happened to be pals with Scott Sperone, the defensive coordinator at Florham. Woodward received a phone call from Florham head coach Brian Surace on a Monday, flew to Madison two days later to interview and was hired that Friday.
So he now finds himself in what equates to a foreign land. The 26-year-old native of Wendell said that he has never really been outside of WMass for an extended period of time, so the opportunity has provided him with a different perspective than he was accustomed to.
“It was different,” he said of the move. “My friends used to joke all the time about how all I know is western Mass. This is a step I felt like I had to take. It’s something my friends and family in the profession encouraged me to do. I am seeing a different brand of football.”
Florham, which is Fairleigh Dickinson University’s equivalent of UMass-Lowell, is a Division III program that plays in the Middle Atlantic Conference, ironically known as the MAC (which wears the same acronym as Woodward’s Minutemen’s current conference). According to Woodward, the MAC, which is primarily made up of Pennsylvania teams, is a higher brand of football. There are currently two MAC teams ranked inside the Division III Top 25 poll. Delaware Valley is ranked No. 22, while Widener is ranked No. 24. Conversely, the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) has no one in the Top 25, or even receiving any votes. So, although Woodward still talks to the coaches at Westfield every week and said he misses the team and players, he also realizes that if he is going to work his way through the collegiate ranks and perhaps one day realize his dream of becoming a head coach, it was a move he had to make.
“I feel like it’s more in depth,” Woodward said of the differences. “The MAC is a very good football conference. That’s taking nothing away from Westfield State, because I loved my time there and I learned a lot. At Westfield, you might find three coaches in the office at times, but here you will find eight coaches in the office. It’s just taken a lot more seriously.”
Surace is in his third year as FDU-Florham coach, and like Woodward comes from a strong line of coaches. His father was a high school football coach for 25 years, and brother Bob is the head coach at Princeton University.
“Brian is very on top of everything,” Woodward said. “He does a good job of getting his young coaches experience. I am only 26 but there are about five coaches on the staff that are younger than me, right out of college, but he makes sure to get them experience.”
As for the task at hand, Woodward, Surace and the rest of the coaches have a tall order. FDU-Florham has not had a winning season since 1994. In fact, since that time, the Devils have won more than three games only four times. Last season, the team went 2-8 overall.
“Brian is trying to change the culture here and I’m hoping to be a part of that,” Woodward said.
The team may be off to the right start. The Devils opened the season with a 18-12 win over the College of New Jersey but suffered a 55-22 setback in their home opener Friday to begin the season 1-1. Next up is a Saturday game on the road in Annville, Pa., against Lebanon Valley College.
News of Woodward’s move this past spring also reached the ears of former UMass wide receiver-turned NFL All-Pro Victor Cruz.
Woodward and Cruz have remained in touch over the years, contacting each other up to once a week. They are friends, in other words. So when Cruz and the New York Giants were working on the new five-year, $43 million contract he received in July, he was unable to use the Giants’ practice facilities. Luckily, his old quarterback was in the neighborhood, so the two players got together and Woodward threw to Cruz in a facility Woodward likened to Indoor Action in Greenfield.
“He was between contracts and I told him I was moving down here so we got together a few times,” Woodward said.
Woodward said that throwing to his former wide receiver was much different because of the leaps Cruz has taken since entering the NFL. And no word yet from Giants’ camp about the possibility of bringing in Woodward for a tryout after the Giants hit rock-bottom on Sunday with the 38-0 embarrassment to Carolina.
Speaking of the Giants’ loss, I can admit when I have made a mistake, and saying the Giants would win 11 games this season was way off. Maybe I’m jumping the gun but it’s beginning to look like it’s time for some changes to the Giants’ coaching staff. I’ve wanted offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride gone for years despite the success the team has had under him, while defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has no success to speak of and should have been gone a long time ago, leading a unit that has gotten progressively worse under him. I’ve been hard on head coach Tom Coughlin over the years but will give him one more chance, although I am so sick of seeing that ticked off/confused look that he has made famous. Someone needs to pay the price for the embarrassing start to the season. And Tom, if you read this, STOP TRYING TO RUN BRANDON JACOBS. I understand that David Wilson fumbled the ball a few times too many. But he’s the guy. Give him a chance to grow. This season is already a loss.
And this outta stir up the Patriots fans that are sitting on Cloud 9 following a third straight win: The Patriots are not much better than the 7-9 record I predicted at the start of the season. While you are not the mess that is the Giants, wins over the Jets, Bills and Bucs — who have about three winning seasons combined in the past 10 years — do not make you a Super Bowl contender.
As for this week, the 0-3 Giants have 3-0 Kansas City. If ever there was a mismatch, this might be it. But it’s the Chiefs, and no one really believes they are that good, right? Giants will win, 17-14.
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.