Editorial Note: This story was used as the senior feature story for Liberty's game on Nov. 19 against Coastal Carolina. Josh Woodrum finished his career as the program's all-time career record holder in passing yards (10,266), completions (833) and attempts (1,304). The native of Roanoke, Va., also completed his career with 61 touchdown passes, which ranks second on Liberty's all-time list (Robby Justino – 64).
Josh Woodrum's greatest strength in football just might be his confidence.
That's saying something, considering the impressive resume Woodrum has compiled throughout his four years as the Flames starting quarterback.
After redshirting his first season with the program, Woodrum took over as starting quarterback shortly into the 2012 season and threw for nearly 2,000 yards — a program freshman record — and 11 touchdowns.
Woodrum was named Big South Freshman of the Year, leading the conference in pass completion percentage (68.5). The play of the native of Roanoke, Va., also drew regional and national attention. He was named the top offensive freshman in Virginia by the Virginia Sports Information Directors, while finishing 13th in the final voting for the Jerry Rice Award (top freshman FCS player in the country).
Woodrum followed up his breakout year by tossing for a conference-best 2,581 passing yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for a career-high five touchdowns, as well in 2013. His numbers marked the second-best sophomore passing season in program history, and earned him All-Big South second team honors.
Still building and growing as a player, last season's junior campaign was Woodrum's best yet. The quarterback finished the year with a program second-best 3,201 total offensive yards, including 2,947 passing yards and 19 touchdowns and 80 carries for 254 yards and nine touchdowns — despite missing two games due to injury.
He ranked No. 2 in the Big South and No. 25 in the country for total offense per game (266.8 yards), No. 1 in the Big South and No. 14 in the country in passing efficiency (147.6), and No. 17 in the country in passing yards. Most importantly, his effort and offensive production led the Flames to the program's first-ever NCAA FCS Playoff win when Liberty upended No. 15 James Madison.
"I came in and was redshirted as a freshman, so my first year of playing was under the new coaching staff," Woodrum remembered. "It's amazing to see how much this program has grown under Coach Gill and his staff and it's only going to continue."
Already this season, Woodrum has passed for 2,510 yards and cemented himself as the program's all-time career passing yards leader with 10,004 yards of flight under his belt.
While most would expect a player with his numbers and records to be confident as a result of them, though, Woodrum and his coaches alike explained that the opposite is actually just as true.
"You know, I think confidence has to go before success, not the other way around," quarterbacks coach Joe Dailey said with a smile.
"Sure, I'll have games where I don't play as well as I would like, and there will be games where I play great," Woodrum stated with a shrug. "My goal is always to be the guy my teammates know is going to come on the field and help us win."
It may sound backwards to some, but Woodrum's job as a quarterback necessitates belief in himself and his teammates to accomplish their goals on the field before he ever steps a cleat on the turf or takes a snap.
That's not to say that belief is baseless, of course — the exercise science graduate both enjoys and prioritizes physical training so as to be prepared for each and every down. Dailey praised his work ethic on the field, in the film room, in the gym and during team and position meetings.
"He sets a very high standard, not just for himself, but also for others," Dailey affirmed. "He pushes me as a coach. He is an exceptional young man."
It was Dailey, upon arriving with head coach Turner Gill and his staff in 2012, who recognized Woodrum's potential and put him in position to reach it.
"I was able to show my talents to the new coaching staff, and they liked what they saw," Woodrum relayed. "That first year, they played me mostly in the role of a game manager — someone to execute plays and oversee the offense — and then as time went on, I've become more of a playmaker and created more offense myself."
He has seen his role in the locker room grow similarly, serving as a team captain for the third consecutive year and doing his best to elevate his teammates and himself to their full ability. On media days, Woodrum comfortably handles press conferences and cameras, and he speaks with the assuredness of a coach. It may seem as though the quarterback is building off his accomplishments, but it is the calm, cool collectedness instead that has allowed him to succeed in his high-pressure position.
Tonight, Woodrum is part of a 17-member senior class that will confidently look to give the Williams Stadium crowd one more thrill by upending No. 4/4 Coastal Carolina, a program that has become Liberty's arch rival in the Big South during their careers.
In the near future, Woodrum will have to call on his confidence once again. While his passion for all things exercise-related mean that he aims for a career that involves it, the senior will first pursue a continued career in his first love: football, of course.
"The NFL is the goal, obviously," Woodrum said with a firm, determined nod. "There's a lot of work ahead but I believe I'm capable of it and that's where I want to be, first and foremost."
"We believe he is capable of playing at the NFL level," Dailey agreed, noting his combination of size, strength, skill, intelligence and pure determination as a winning mix.
The odds may be against him, as they are with any college quarterback, but Woodrum is used to going long.
Until then, his focus is on completing his football career here at Liberty. Flames fans can expect to see the team finish strong — Woodrum already does.
By Ryley Rush, a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics
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