In late June last year, around two dozen of the nation’s premier collegiate quarterbacks gathered in Louisiana at the Manning Passing Academy, looking to absorb some wisdom from a family second to none among signal callers.
The patriarch, Archie Manning, was very visible on the Nicholls State campus, site of the workouts. So, too, was future Hall of Famer Peyton and his brother, Giants QB Eli. They were presiding over an extremely talented group headlined by USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and, at the time, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson of Louisville.
- MORE PATRIOTS - CURRAN: Patriots' future rides on breaking tension
But one of the camp’s instructors, David Morris, himself a former SEC QB at Ole Miss in the Eli era, kept noticing another quarterback, one with very little name recognition but some pretty audacious stats compiled at Toledo in his junior season. That kid’s name was Logan Woodside.
“Right off the bat, I could see he was real confident and had a strong belief in his abilities,” Morris told me. “He’s not intimidated by the group or people he was around. I mean, there are a lot of good QBs at that camp and he more than held his own. I didn’t know much about him but I wanted to find out.”
“When I went to the Manning Camp, I went down there with a purpose and that was to show everyone down there I may be from a small school and I’m not the tallest and not the biggest but I’m definitely one of the best quarterbacks in this class,” Woodside told me from Indianapolis as he prepares for this week’s NFL Scouting Combine.
I asked Woodside if he accomplished that goal.
“I think I proved it.”
Is he bragging? Morris doesn’t think so. He has worked with Woodside at QB Country in Pensacola, Florida, Morris’ training facility, preparing for the young QB for not just the combine and the upcoming NFL draft. What Morris saw was a kid willing to put in the time and then some to reach his ultimate goal.
“He’s not intimidated,” said Morris. “He likes that stuff. He thinks he can play with anybody. He thinks he’s the best quarterback at the combine. You gotta think like that. He knows he’s got a lot of work to do, but he believes he can get it done.”
- MORE PATRIOTS - Talib, Sherman have their eye on Pats?
“That’s how I’ve always been,” said Woodside. “I’ve always felt like I’m one of the best quarterbacks in the country. That’s just the confidence you have to have - not being cocky or anything. Just having that confidence in you.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Woodside, though his numbers at Toledo the last two seasons say otherwise. He completed 69 percent of his passes as a junior (when he had now Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt in the backfield) then followed it up by hitting at a 64-percent clip as a senior surrounded by a much younger roster. Woodside threw 28 touchdowns this fall and just eight interceptions and saved one of his best days for the Rockets' toughest opponent, the University of Miami at the height of it’s ascension to the upper reaches of the Top-25.
“If you watch that game closely enough, you watch him take a hit or get sacked and you watch him come right back the next play or two pays later and put the ball right on the money or right on time,” said his offensive coordinator at Toledo, Brian Wright. “He never blinked and he kept on competing.”
Woodside actually rallied Toledo from down 10-0 to a 16-10 halftime lead before the wheels fell off. He still finished with nearly 350 yards passing, three scores and not a single interception. A year prior, in another showcase game, Woodside lit up BYU for more than 500 and five TDs in a 55-53 loss at Provo. Not bad for a player who was beaten out not just once, but twice as the starting QB at Toledo.
“That was really tough on me losing that job for the second time,” said Woodside, “but it was also what they decided was best for the team. I thought I was the better player but that’s not what they needed at the time. I understood that, grew from it and tried to get better so I could be the best backup I could be knowing I’d make sure I’d get another chance.”
Said Wright: “The thing that makes Logan successful is he approaches that situation, that adversity like you want. All he does is come to work the next day and say what do I have to do to get better. He doesn’t get bitter about the situation. He keeps that chip on his shoulder and feels like he has to prove himself every day but he channels that emotion in the right direction. Nobody is going to outwork me and trust me, no one does.”
Woodside doesn’t have to work much on his mechanics. In fact, Morris says he wouldn’t mess with the QB's upper half. The ball comes out smooth and clean, with a lightning-fast release. There’s a fluidity that you don’t see when you look at some of the more highly regarded throwers in this draft, such as Darnold or even a large collection of QBs already collecting paychecks in the NFL. One scout told me that Woodside’s release is already better than 8-10 starters in the league. That’s one of the reasons why his stock appears on the rise with still another seven weeks until the draft.
Of course, the 23-year old wasn’t built in those NFL labs, where the QBs are preferably 6-4 and around 225-230 pounds. Woodside claims to be 6-2 and around 210 pounds. The height may not be as big a deal as the weight, although if you watched him bounce off hits and scramble and make plays with his legs, it’s pretty clear he’s plenty tough and plenty strong.
“I definitely don’t think arm strength is the only way you play in the NFL,” said Woodside. “You can zip it as hard as you want but if it doesn’t hit the receiver in the target then what is it really? What is that strong arm for? I think I have the arm strength to play in the NFL and hopefully, I'll show that this weekend.”
One way to make up a major league hose is to use that release and that football IQ to his advantage.
“You need to be able to read and understand the coverage and where the ball needs to go,” he said. “I knew our [Toledo] offense like the back of my hand and was able to react and put the ball where it needed to be and give my receivers a chance to make plays. That’s what it’s about.”
That and the intangibles - Woodside led Toledo to it’s first Mid-American Conference title in 14 years - will almost ensure he gets his name called on draft weekend. Will it be here, as the next Jimmy Garoppolo behind Tom Brady? Somewhere else? When presented the former option, Woodside lit up.
“That’d be a dream come true. I get cold chills just thinking about it,” he said of getting the call from the Patriots. “I grew up a huge Tom Brady fan. Everything that he went through at Michigan and it was kind of a similar situation to what I had at Toledo honestly. Nobody really believed in him so he went out there and proved it to them. And he’s still proving it.”
Woodside will fight to get that chance. He’s already proven that.