Linfield football’s senior cornerback Andrew Woods will snap up his chin strap one last time this Saturday as a member of the American Football Coaches Association’s Division III all-star team, playing the Mexican national team in the 11th annual Aztec Bowl.
This year, the game will be held at Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Chihuahua, Mexico, with kickoff at 4 p.m.
Prior to 1997, the game was played by a mixture of NCAA, NAIA, international, military school and junior college teams. During this 25-year span, the United States held a slight 14-11-1 advantage in the series.
Since the change to only Division III teams playing in the Aztec Bowl, the United States has a 9-1 record in this new Bowl’s short 10-year history, the most recent being a 28-7 victory in Aguascalientes, Mexico, last season.
“It’s fun to see our guys getting a chance to keep playing,” 12th-year defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughan said. “It is a neat experience for a group of guys from around the country.”
Woods joins an exclusive group of four Linfield alumni who have participated in the contest. They are offensive guard Daryl Agpalsa in 2002, quarterback Tyler Matthews in 2003, receiver Casey Allen in 2005 and offensive tackle Robbie McCullough in 2006.
After breaking the Grant High School record for single season rushing yards with 2,125, Woods came to Linfield in 2003 as a converted cornerback. As a first-year player, Woods was a member of the final class of redshirt players at the Division III level.
Returning for his second year, he saw action in 10 games as a backup cornerback for the 2004 National Championship.
“On paper, the guy stands out,” Vaughan said. “He has always been physically impressive. You just don’t see a guy like that in Division III.”
In 2005, the 6’3”, 210-pound business and economics major is credited with 13 tackles in nine games as he battled an injury throughout the season.
“We knew we could count on him,” Vaughan said. “He allowed us to do more things on defense. We were unafraid to send some blitzes and match up one-on-one. He is the kind of guy that might have made a difference in a national championship repeat in 2005.”
The endeavor for a championship repeat ended in the semifinals with a 44-41 shoot-out loss to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Woods rebounded in 2006, being selected as a cornerback to the All-Northwest Conference second team after recording 17 tackles and three pass deflections for the season.
In his senior year, the three-year letter winner put up the best numbers of his career.
In nine games, Woods is credited with 15 tackles, three interceptions returned for 44 yards, a team-high five pass break-ups and one blocked kick. The season earned him first-team All-NWC honors prior to his selection to the play in the Aztec Bowl.
“He just became dominant,” Vaughan said. “I think that (Woods) would agree that he doesn’t feel that he deserves it more than anyone else. Our whole secondary was seniors, and he took leadership.“
With his college career coming to a close, Vaughan said Woods is looking into pursuing a career in the sport. With many Linfield alumni playing in the Canadian and Arena leagues, it is possible he will be picked up somewhere.
“He was always reliable and accountable,” Vaughan said. “He really got better and more mature as he got older, and he has the tools that will stand out for him.”