Giants rookie QB Andre' Woodson will get a chance to learn behind a Super Bowl MVP
By Michael Eisen, Giants.com
MAY 14, 2008
EAST RUTHERFORD - Two hundred fifty two players were selected in this year’s NFL Draft, but only one has an opportunity to play behind and learn from the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
Giants rookie QB Andre' Woodson will get a chance to learn behind a Super Bowl MVP.
Andre’ Woodson, a strong-armed quarterback from the University of Kentucky, was issued a locker just a few feet from Eli Manning’s, whose late heroics helped the Giants upset New England in Super Bowl XLII. Woodson will return to the Giants with his fellow rookies on Friday to continue the process that he hopes will result in a roster spot in September. To accelerate his education, Woodson plans to soak up as much knowledge as he can from Manning about the Giants’ offense, the NFL and playing quarterback.
“I haven’t been able to train next to him yet,” Woodson said at last weekend’s mini-camp, where he suffered a strained quad that forced him to miss the final practice. “When I do, it’s going to be pretty nice. He’s someone you watch all the time on T.V., because he’s so talented. I’m just blessed to be in a situation to learn behind him and learn a lot from him.”
Like Woodson, Manning put up big numbers at a Southeastern Conference school (Mississippi). Indeed, their collegiate statistics are remarkably similar:
Attempts 1363 1278
Completetions 829 791
Completion % 60.8 61.9
Touchdowns 81 79
Interceptions 35 25
Woodson also threw an NCAA-record 325 passes spanning the 2006-07 seasons without an interception. But while Manning was the first overall selection of the 2004 draft, Woodson fell all the way to the sixth round, the 198th overall pick, which was much later than he anticipated being chosen.
“The second round,” Woodson said when asked when he expected to get drafted. “Everyone was telling me that.”
He is at a loss to explain the disparity between his expectations and his reality.
“I really don’t know,” Woodson said. “I think a lot of people still, to this day, don’t really know why I dropped as much as I did, but like I said, things happen and I am still blessed to be in this situation.”
The Giants said they didn’t expect to find Woodson available when they prepared to make a selection late in the sixth round.
“We were surprised he was still there,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “When we saw him there we had had him evaluated or assessed at a value that was very difficult to overlook, so that is why we picked him. He is a guy that has played a lot of big games. He has won a lot of games at a school and a program that hasn’t necessarily flourished in the Southeastern Conference. When you can get a guy that has carried his team for a long time in a very competitive environment, it is hard to not take a chance on him. We are excited about him coming in and seeing what he can do.”
Once the players step onto the practice field, no one will care Woodson was the eighth or the 198th pick. The competition for the backup jobs behind Manning will be decided by who plays best. Woodson is fighting for holdovers Anthony Wright and Jared Lorenzen, plus fellow newcomer David Carr (the top selection in the 2002 draft) for two spots.
“I just think you really have to do a great job of learning the offense,” Woodson said. “You have to show that you can become a well-developed quarterback down the road and continue to really do a good job in practice and showing them that you can learn and learn at a fast pace, which obviously in the NFL you really have to be very good at. I think that just shows them a lot and maybe later down the road it could eventually get you into a situation where you can get put on the field.”
As long as they remain on the same roster, Woodson will be compared to Lorenzen, his fellow former Kentucky Wildcat. Lorenzen was UK’s quarterback from 2000-03. Woodson started one game in 2004, then all 37 games in which he played the next three seasons. The two quarterbacks rank first and second in several categories in the school’s record book:
Offensive Plays 1,793 1,510
Attempts 1,514 1,278
Passing Yards 10,354 9,360
Total Yards 10,637 8,870
Touchdown Passes 78 79
Although Woodson said at the mini-camp that he hasn’t talked to Lorenzen in about six months, the two quarterbacks are friendly.
“I definitely learned behind him at Kentucky,” Woodson said. “I think we have a good relationship. I hope it continues to stay that way, even though we’re kind of competing. He’s a great guy and I’m glad to get a chance to see him again.”
Lorenzen is well aware that Woodson will be a formidable antagonist as they battle for a roster spot.
“I think he has the talent to be a great starting quarterback in the league, I really do,” Lorenzen said. “He is going to have his rough spots, which I think everybody goes through, just the learning curve. He just has to pick up the offense, that is the hardest part - understanding the offense and then translating to understanding a defense. It will take him a year. He is going to be here, he is going to understand there is no rush for him at all. We are all sitting behind a Super Bowl MVP, so it is just take your time and learn it, don’t stretch yourself out.”
Part of the package that Manning brought here which made him so attractive to the Giants was his experience playing in front of huge and hostile crowds in the SEC. Woodson was similarly baptized, which should hasten his adjustment to the NFL.
“You learn to have a thick skin, especially coming out of Kentucky,” Lorenzen said. “You get a lot of boos and all that, not at our place, but you just get a lot of boos in the SEC. Tennessee holds 105 (thousand), Florida is another 85 or 90, so all these places that you play at you are used to it. You get a thick skin, you are used to using your hand signals, and the two-minute stuff doesn’t really bother you, either. It is just the way the conference is. I love it.”
Woodson thrived in those environments. As a senior in 2007, he led the Wildcats to their second consecutive Music City Bowl while completing 327 of 518 passes (63.1 percent) for 3,709 yards, 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Woodson threw three touchdown passes in a triple overtime victory over eventual national champion LSU, passed for 415 yards and five scores against Florida and hit 39 of 62 passes for 430 yards and six scores in a 52-50 overtime defeat to Tennessee.
“He has a really strong arm and throws a really soft, catchable ball,” Lorenzen said. “He will understand that he has to get rid of the ball quicker to get to guys. A lot of it is lower body, you have to get your hips to throw the ball and you have to get your legs ready to throw the ball. He will be fine.”
Of course, Woodson’s impressive stats will be little more than fantasy league numbers when he arrives at training camp at the University at Albany. Woodson will have to be at his best to fend off the more experienced reserve quarterbacks and earn a roster spot.
“I think that with the situation that I am in, where I can learn from all these quarterbacks that are here, will definitely be better for me down the road to help me develop and be a better quarterback,” Woodson said. “I can see what it takes to watch film and read defenses and all those type of things. Hopefully, down the road when I have an opportunity to go somewhere else or if I do have an opportunity to play here, it will really help me out and be positive for me.”
The two former Wildcats, Lorenzen and Woodson, could find themselves competing for one job.
“You look at it and it is a numbers game, that is what the NFL is, that is what every organization is doing, trying to get the best players out there,” Lorenzen said. “When there are five (quarterbacks) and you know there are only going to be four (training camp) spots of course you look at it. But at the same time it is Andre’, somebody that I known pretty well, somebody that I have watched, and somebody who obviously I have followed since I have been out of college. I am happy to have him here. It will be a good time.”