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April 24, 2014

CULLMAN COUNTY SPORTS HALL OF FAME: Induction ‘unreal’ for West Point grad Woodard

CULLMAN — Every aspect of Steve L. Woodard Sr.’s athletic career was unreal.

From his time spent at West Point as a four-sport standout to the unbelievable memories he has as the proud father of a former major league pitcher, the words the 1965 Warrior graduate uses to sum up his experiences never change.

That includes the way Woodard is looking at his upcoming induction into the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame. During a banquet Saturday at the Civic Center, he, along with 10 others, will officially be recognized as the 15th class to earn enshrinement.

“It’s unreal,” said Woodard, trumpeting his most familiar phrase. “It’s an honor just to be mentioned. But to be voted in is unreal. It’s one of the biggest things that’s ever happened to me.”

Woodard was a busy boy in high school, showing out in basketball, football, baseball and track. The teen enjoyed the entire quartet, but his affinity for the former two was unmatched.

His senior year, Woodard was a member of the illustrious West Point basketball team that finished 29-2 and second in the state playoffs. All five starters off the squad were named to the All-County and All-Area teams, the first — and only — time the feat has been pulled off at the county level. With Woodard, who also made All-County in 1964, and Ronnie Heaton’s inductions, four of those five players will now be represented in the CCSHOF.

Woodard touted the team’s tight-knitted attitude as one of the keys to its success. He was also high on coach Henry Terrell and his wife, Mildred, who “used to keep me around.”

“The chemistry was unreal,” Woodard said of the 1965 dream team. “We played together several years there. We just learned each other and knew what each other was going to do.

“And we worked hard. That’s one thing — we worked hard.”

In spite of his many positive recollections, Woodard couldn’t help but remember the one opponent — New Hope — that was able to top the Warriors in the regular season, avenging an earlier 30-point thrashing with a triumph on the Maroon and White’s own home court.

Woodard wishes he could’ve played football for three years like he did basketball, but that wasn’t possible considering West Point didn’t field its first football team until the fall of 1964.

Still, he was among the first Warriors to suit up on the gridiron, earning Best Offensive Player status and an All-State honorable mention selection.

The wide receiver/tight end hybrid appreciated his coach, Jim Bonner — “he was mean, but he got us ready to play (laughs)” — as well as his quarterback.

“Without Bobby (Terrell), I wouldn’t have been anything in football,” Woodard said. “He’s the one that threw the ball to me so much. It was just fun. It was unreal.”

Once Woodard capped off his own sporting career by playing basketball for a year at Calhoun Community College, he turned his attention to his son’s athletic endeavors. Woodard coached Steve Jr.’s youth baseball teams from the time he was 4 until he was 16.

Steve Jr., now an assistant at West Point, graduated from Hartselle High and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1994. He made his big league debut three years later, outdueling an eventual seven-time Cy Young Award winner with a 12-strikeout, one-hit, one-walk gem against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Woodard watched that masterpiece and several others as his son traveled all over the country working his way up from Single-A to the highest level of professional baseball.

“It was unreal that first game,” Woodard said. “I just couldn’t believe it when he pitched against Roger Clemens and beat him 1-0. I’m proud of him. He doesn’t know how proud I am of him.”

Steve Sr. is now retired — “I just piddle around” — after working 32 years at BP Chemicals in Decatur. He still loves sports — the University of Alabama’s more than any other — and tries to watch “every game that’s on TV.”

Care to guess how Woodard feels about attending the fast-approaching induction ceremony?

“It’s unreal.”



% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.

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