BOWLING GREEN — Off the football field, Dwayne Woods speaks quietly. His every word is measured, weighed, then chosen carefully.
“I think a lot, and I don’t say a lot — unless I have to,” Woods said. “But on the field it’s a whole different ball game.”
When kickoff comes, the star linebacker for the Bowling Green State University football team is anything but a wallflower.
“I’m probably one of the loudest guys out there — I’ve heard a lot of complaints from other teams,” he admitted.
“I remember the Michigan guys saying, ‘That No. 5 doesn’t shut his mouth.’
“I may be quiet, but I’ll do whatever I need to do to put my team in the best situation to win.”
And simply put, the Falcons are in the best position to win when Woods is on the field. The junior from Cincinnati was voted All-Mid-American Conference second team last season after ranking among the national leaders in tackles while also forcing fumbles and breaking up passes.
And Woods said the on-field chatter is a reason for his success.
“You can’t do anything well unless you’re having fun,” he said. “Also, it’s a competition, and [talking] is a part of having swagger. You’re letting the other guy know, ‘You’re not better than me. I’m going to make this play.’
“But you can’t just talk: You have to back it up.”
And Woods certainly backs it up. Last year he finished with 134 tackles, tops in the MAC and sixth-best nationally among FBS players, including six tackles for loss. He forced three fumbles and recovered one while breaking up seven passes and intercepting two others, including one pick he returned 78 yards for a TD against Marshall.
“There are some things I thought I did pretty well [last year], but there were some things I thought I could improve on,” Woods said.
“I missed a lot of tackles last year, and I’m not happy with that. I thought I could have made way more tackles than I did last year. So this year I’m moving on, trying to do bigger and better things.”
So the 6-1, 219-pound junior spent his summer on a mission to get better.
“If not all day, [I would work] at least two or three hours a day,” Woods said. “If not with the team, I was doing stuff by myself. I would work out with the team, then I would go home and do things by myself. On weekends I would wear a weighted vest and hit the hill [near the stadium] to try to get faster.
“I was very focused on this season. I saw what I was capable of, and I’m excited about being a year older in the program and a year better.”
This season Woods will be a leader for a young defense that has just three seniors on the 23-man two-deep — not to mention 17 players who are either a freshman or a sophomore.
“When you come in as a freshman, you don’t know what year [in school] anyone is,” Woods said. “A lot of them thought I was a senior.
“All they know is, ‘You have been here longer than me.’ They look up to us because of that. And I know that, because of my experience, I can help them get better — and help this program grow.”
Woods knows the prognosticators don’t expect much from a young team that was 2-10 last season. But in this case Woods said his actions will do his talking.
“My expectation is just to compete on a daily basis,” he said. “We’ll take it one day at a time — whether it’s practice, film, a walk-through, or even a day off — and try to get better.
“We hope that allows us to get to eight or nine wins, and hopefully be in a bowl game after we play for the MAC Championship at Ford Field in Detroit.”