Mundelein football player transforms into multi-purpose dynamo
When asked by a reporter what his favorite football position is, Mundelein's Aaron Woolford said it was “kind of tough.”
Woolford's hesitation is understandable, given that Woolford has been leading the Mustangs in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – all season.
On offense, a change in position to running back resulted in the senior putting up 512 yards on 101 carries for six touchdowns – all team highs, according to statistics on MaxPreps.com. Defensively, he's become a ball hawk out of the secondary, collaring several interceptions. And on kick returns, he's returned 10 kickoffs for 337 yards, with his longest return covering 90 yards.
Woolford's all-around output starts with the natural and acquired ability in his 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound frame, Mustangs Head Coach Larry Calhoun said in an interview with the Lake County Gazette.
“He's gifted in terms of having speed,” Calhoun said. “He's not a huge kid, but he's got decent size. He's been diligent in the weight room, so he's strong.”
Then there's the other parts of Woolford's game that separate him from other players – playing the ball well in the air, possessing great vision as a runner, having the ability to stop and react quickly.
“All of those intangible things you can't really coach; he has them,” Calhoun said.
Woolford's stellar season is coming off of what Calhoun called “kind of a pedestrian type of year.” While he played regularly, Woolford had less than half the rushing yards all of last season that he already had this season in the first six games, as well as a fraction of the receptions.
“Not anything real spectacular,” Calhoun said of Woolford's 2015 season. “That's unfortunate because he had the same ability last year, but I didn't think he had the drive and the vision for himself last year, and I think that's what's really changed for Aaron.”
Woolford told the Gazette that last season, he played more at the slot-receiver position, so moving to the starting tailback position was a big change. Woolford said he sees the field a lot better when he's running with the ball.
“I think I've grown a lot more, and I've adapted to the position,” Woolford said.
Calhoun said Woolford also has grown as a leader – by example and work ethic, as well as by voice.
“He's a kid who, all of a sudden, is encouraging the younger players and challenging the older players,” Calhoun said. “He obviously has a vision for himself that he didn't necessarily have as a younger player.”
As far as what Woolford's best role on the team is, Calhoun said that since he coordinates the offense, he wouldn't give him up as the feature running back, but the coach also didn't know whether Woolford is better at one particular position.
“He's a great player in space ... whether he's carrying the football or he's in coverage, in space as a defensive back ...” Calhoun said. “And he's physical, too. He'll come up and strike you from our safety position.”