The Free Agent Coming Out Of The Woods

The-Free-Agent-Coming-Out-Of-The-Woods-hero

OXNARD, Calif. – On May 30th, the Cowboys signed some guy named Antwaun Woods, a 312-pound nose tackle.

The news barely created a blimp on The Star radar that second week of OTA practices. As if, OK, OK, just another camp body.

After all, the nose tackle from Southern Cal had spent two seasons with the Tennessee Titans, arriving in 2016 as a rookie free agent. Woods was released on the final cut, signed three days later to the practice squad and then released three weeks later, only to be signed back onto the practice squad six days later and remained there until being signed to the 53-man roster for the final week of the season.

He played in one game that season.

Then he spent the entire 2017 season on the Titans practice squad. He played no games.

Guarantee you nobody knew who or much about No. 64 in blue when he arrived here in training camp with the Cowboys. Why would ya? Just another camp body. Eight days had gone by without much notice.

But on the ninth day, while talking with former Cowboys defensive assistant Clancy Pendergast, this No. 64 walks by and the now USC defensive coordinator says, "That's my guy."

What guy?

"Antwaun Woods, he played for me," Pendergast says.

And about that time, here comes Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, going out of his way to let Woods know he saw he had a good day of practice that Wednesday. And when Jones told him, "Don't let up," Woods responded, "I don't know what that means.

Good answer, right, the very first time he had spoken with the Cowboys owner since he was signed two months ago.

When told his answer was good as gold, the affable Woods says, "Great answer, that's how I live. It's a mindset, an attitude, never let up. That's how I was raised, how I live my life."

That was Wednesday. Then on Thursday, before Friday's day off, this No. 64 continued to make plays in practice, working with the second and third teams.

But when the Cowboys returned to practice on Saturday when they were having their first goal-line session of camp – all-out tackling – there was Woods up front with the first-team defense, working against the first-team offensive line, you know, in the middle where he would face Pro Bowlers Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and second-round draft choice Connor Williams. Woods continued to get penetration at the line of scrimmage.

But Woods didn't stop there. Oh no. Then in the one-on-one pass-rush drill later in practice, the 6-1, 312-pounder stands up to Frederick, actually throwing a hard right after completing a rep, causing a little dust-up- between the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen.

Now everyone knows his name, for sure.

And by Sunday morning, there was Woods during the walk-through working at the one-technique with the first-team defense in place of Jihad Ward, who had impressed the Cowboys in the off-season. Was this for real?

"There are no engraved invitations out here," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli says, basically pointing out if you make more plays than the guy ahead of you, then you get to play.

"He has good quickness. He made spectacular plays on the goal line."

As for Woods, he certainly understands the opportunity he's getting to prove himself. And he just might have landed in the perfect scheme, since Marinelli wants his defensive linemen to get off the ball, get up field and be disruptive.

That sort of fits his game to the T since he would be considered a smallish one-technique at 6-1, 312, but with quickness off the ball. And couple that with his inherent feistiness, making him the ideal candidate for Marinelli in the middle.

And to further understand Woods, when told going forward most will surely know who is and will watching closely, he coyly says, "Don't blink."

No blinking here, especially when he openly says, with not a shy bone in his body, "I just want to be a Cowboy."

And go somewhere they now know your name.

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