By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer
When Glens Falls High School graduate Griffin Woodell first walked on to the University at Albany’s football team last fall, he certainly wasn’t thinking about the possibility of one day being named the Coastal Athletic Association’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
“It never crossed my mind that I would do it,” Woodell said.
But that was before he was given a scholarship in August, and before he accumulated 1,007 total yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games to help propel UAlbany to its first-ever Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal, against the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho this Saturday, Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. EST.
Despite his accomplishments, including being named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award as the FCS freshman of the year, the redshirt freshman running back is staying grounded. “In my head I’ll always be a walk on, still fighting with the same fight,” he said.
The business major noted he’s been able to adjust from the high school to college game by “just coming in every day and trying to learn and get better. It’s not something that nobody can do, you know. You just have to want it enough and get in the weight room, study the playbook, and watch film.”
His Glens Falls High School Coach Pat Lilac told The Chronicle that when Griffin went to UAlbany, “We were kind of unsure how he was going to do going to a school of that level. We were hoping everything would work out for him.
“But he’s just kind of blown up since he’s been there. His work ethic is really taking off, and he’s gotten a lot bigger, stronger, quicker and more explosive. I think the speed that he’s gained and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield have been two big positives for him that have really helped him.
“He’s a really humble kid,” Lilac continued. “He’s kind of quiet and reserved, but he’s also got a funny personality at the same time. So it’s a good mixture in terms of personality and character. He’s shown the ability to have a really good work ethic, not only in the weight room, but in the classroom as well.”
As a senior for Glens Falls Woodell was the Class B North Offensive Player of the Year, scoring 27 touchdowns while carrying the ball 135 times for 1,504 yards.
His junior year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a sophomore, Woodell was Class B North’s MVP, rushing for 830 yards and 17 touchdowns over only 84 carries.
Woodell also started as a freshman for Glens Falls, but dealt with adversity. “He was having a great year and was just getting more confident and better each week, and then he broke his collarbone in the first round of the playoffs,” Lilac said. The injury prevented Woodell from experiencing playing in the state championship game for Glens Falls that year.
“Then he came back and had a great sophomore year,” Lilac recalled. “He got a little bigger and stronger. His junior year was the COVID year. We played a limited schedule in the spring and he was still a good player for us. And then he came back his senior year and had a monster year, despite being hampered by an ankle injury for at least half the season.”
As high school wound to a close, SUNY Cortland waas the other college Woodell was seriously considering, but he ultimately decided on UAlbany.
“It’s closer to home, my family could come and watch, and I figured it’s a bigger challenge for me than Cortland would have been,” he explained. “I wanted to take that challenge.”
A multi-sport athlete, Woodell also played basketball, baseball and lacrosse in high school. As for his enduring passion, football, he said his parents first got him into the game when he was in third grade. “No other sport can give you the feeling that football can, and I think I fell in love with that feeling,” he said.
Looking ahead to his future improvement as a player, Woodell said “I know I’m going to keep learning football more and more, and that definitely will help, but I think the biggest thing for me is just getting in the weight room and getting bigger and stronger.”
Supporting him from the stands will be the Glens Falls faithful, which included Lilac at a UAlbany game this season.
“It was really exciting,” the coach said of seeing his former player compete at the next level. “There were a whole bunch of Glens Falls people there at the game we went to. Seeing all those faces in the crowd and seeing him doing well, it makes everybody from Glens Falls feel real proud for him.”
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