KENNEWICK — When you see what Grant Woods has accomplished this year for the Kennewick Lions football team -- leading the CBBN 3A in rushing, touchdowns and scoring -- it may surprise you to know that this is his first and only season as a starter at running back.
Which, in turn, makes you wonder: Who could have possibly started in front of the strong, sturdy senior for the previous three seasons? And what on earth could those people be doing now?
Climbing Mount Everest? Wrestling grizzly bears? Running for President?
It's difficult to believe, but in the three years before his senior season, there was always someone better suited for the role -- either more talented, more experienced, maybe a little stronger or faster.
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This year, thanks to a tireless workout regimen and a dutiful reverence to coach Bill Templeton's team concept, Woods made the role his own.
"He just continued to work hard, getting stronger and faster," said Woods' father, Jeff, a 1988 Kennewick graduate. "He gave up baseball to run track. That was quite a sacrifice, because he loves baseball. But it helped him with his speed."
His dad also did his part to help boost Grant's strength and explosiveness. Well, if you consider putting a 6,000 pound minivan in neutral and letting your son push it across a parking lot helping.
"He's a good dad. We're pretty close. We usually have a good time during church," Grant said of his father, who works at New York Life in Kennewick and doubles as a pastor at The Meeting Place church in Pasco. "Even though he's got a lot of kids (eight) and two careers, he wants us to be involved."
Naturally, Woods would prefer to drive, but if it means the difference between getting stopped at the line of scrimmage on third-and-2 or powering out of the pile for another five yards, he's willing to push his dad's three-ton rig all around town, if necessary.
He can also get down and dirty in the weight room, too.
"His lifts are freakish. He can clean 275, his bench is up around 300 (255, actually) and he squats over 400," Templeton said.
Asked what's a normal power output for a 5-foot-7, 165-pound running back, Templeton responded, "Not that.
"We put those three lifts together, and if you're in the 700 range, you'll be an OK high school running back. He's well over 900."
His dedication to pumping iron began when his parents decided to put a weight bench in Grant's bedroom. Good for him. Not so good for his older brothers Garrett and Nate, who also played football under Templeton.
"I had a lock on my door so they didn't get into my stuff," Grant said. "They got tired of me locking them out of the weight room. So we had to move some rooms around and put the weights somewhere else."
The strength training has paid off in big ways. Templeton said he's one of the strongest players on the team -- including the linemen -- and his teammates enjoy watching him punish would-be tacklers.
"I saw him on a stretch play against West Valley. He broke about four or five tackles on the way to the end zone. There was another play where he had nowhere to go, so he put his shoulder down and just lit a kid up," Kennewick quarterback Bryce Leavitt said. "With him, it's really a mental thing. He knows he's at a size disadvantage, but he just outplays everybody."
For Woods, the biggest reason for his elusiveness is a simple one.
"I guess I just don't like to get tackled," he said.
You need evidence? In 2010, Woods led the league in kickoff returns at 33.7 yards a pop. Since grabbing the starting job, he has rolled up a league-leading 1,267 rushing yards on 178 attempts for a 7.1-yard average. Oh, and by the way, tack on 15 rushing touchdowns and 96 points, both of which also led the CBBN 4A.
"We have a lot of longtime families going through the school. It's more than just a game. It's history. We're thrilled he's here at Kennewick keeping that tradition," said Templeton, who will take his team onto the field against Southridge on Saturday at noon in the Lions' first state appearance since 2007 and 15th overall. "Both teams are going to be jacked up. There's a lot of initial overwhelming emotion. Once you get through all that, you can see who the better team is."
Leavitt and Woods became fast friends after Woods' family moved next door to Leavitt's after the pair's freshman year. But the two players shared an even greater bond over the frustration of watching from the bench in their first three seasons.
"Before every game we always call each other the unlikely duo, because we were both backups on offense and worked our way up to becoming starters," Woods said.
There's something else Leavitt can appreciate about his best friend Woods, whose family moved next door before their freshman year.
"He has never said a cuss word in his life. I wish I could say the same for myself," he said. "You can even bet him money to try to get him to do it, but he won't do it."