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Woods takes advantage of opportunity

Jackson State junior safety Travis Woods (38) reacts to a play unfolding during the Tigers’ game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Dec. 8 in the SWAC championship game in Birmingham, Ala. Woods, a Natchez High School alumnus, started the Tigers’ final four regular-season games, as well as the SWAC title game. (Abram Jones \ Special to the Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Travis Woods’ season at Jackson State went from disappointing to satisfying in the course of just a few months.

The Natchez High School alumnus started out his junior year for the Tigers with little playing time. But after a few injuries, Woods was named the starting free safety in Jackson State’s game against Mississippi Valley State Oct. 20.

“I did OK,” Woods said of that game. “It wasn’t really good, but I didn’t give up any touchdowns and made plays like I needed to. I had to adapt to the speed of the game. After that, I got more comfortable and played more to my abilities.”

For Woods, all he needed was a chance to prove himself, he said. He started the final four games of Jackson State’s regular season — all wins — and even got to play in the SWAC championship game versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Woods said the adjustment didn’t prove too difficult thanks to some good practices he had against the Tigers’ offense.

“The game slowed down,” Woods said. “We watch a lot of film and have scouting reports, and the offenses really don’t change up what they do from the weeks before. If they run certain plays on certain downs, nine times out of 10 they’ll go back to it.”

Woods also said he was happy to take advantage of the opportunities given to him with more playing time.

“After they gave me a chance, my confidence went up,” Woods said. “I don’t know what it was at first with them not giving me a chance, but they gave it to me, and I ran with it.”

The Tigers closed out the regular season with a 37-11 win at Alcorn State, a game Jackson State needed to win in order to make it to Birmingham, Ala., for the SWAC title.

“It was huge,” Woods said. “It was either win or go home, and no team wants to lose. I had never played in a championship game before, so it was all on the line.”

Playing so close to home also gave local fans a chance to see Woods in action.

“The game’s always been in Jackson (before this season), so I never thought I’d get to play at Alcorn’s field,” he said. “Coming home and knowing a lot of those faces hadn’t seen me since high school, it was huge. I knew I had to represent my family and my team.”

Making it to the SWAC championship was also special, Woods said, even with the disappointment of losing 24-21 in overtime.

“We were 2-4 in the first half of the season, so knowing we deserved to be there was a great feeling,” Woods said. “It felt like a regular game, but you knew there was so much on the line. We had the game, we just made too many mistakes, so it really just fuels me and my teammates to come back next year and work harder.”

After Christmas break, Woods said he’ll be focusing on schoolwork and offseason workouts this spring. With reports that Tigers head coach Rick Comegy is a candidate for the Florida A&M job, Woods said he hopes his coach will stick around.

“He’s always told us he wants to stay at Jackson State, but things change,” Woods said. “He has to do what’s best for him and his family, but I’m hoping it doesn’t happen.”

Woods is the son of Connie White and the late Earnest Woods.