Alex Wood is the Rudy Ruettiger that makes you fear for the well-being of your doorframe. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound redshirt senior at University of Colorado’s underdog story began with a lesson that pre-empts all impossible feats becoming possible.
“I learned how to work hard in high school,” Wood said. He credited his football coaches at Steamboat Springs High School, Aaron Finch and Lonn Clementson, along with his basketball coach Kelly Meek, with instilling that value in him.
“I told coach Meek I wanted to play college football and he said, ‘Well don’t just tell me, show me,’” Wood said.
Coming out of a small town like Steamboat Springs and walking on to a Division I football team is a hard thing to show somebody. But Wood walked the walk and earned a redshirt spot in his first year at the University of Colorado at tight end with his solid frame, sure hands and incredible effort.
Clementson said one of the best parts about coaching Wood was “his determination to play through uncomfortable settings. Very few people I know could play at that level in all kinds of situations.”
However, it was that impressive work ethic that also led Wood to refuse to be complacent with just being on the team, and by doing that, he placed a new myriad of challenges in front of himself.
“The toughest part was when I was fifth or sixth string tight end my sophomore. I didn’t even know if I wanted to play. Then I thought this was the last time I’m going to be able to play football, and I rededicated myself.”
Along with battling from the bottom of the depth chart, Wood also faced changing positions, going from tight end to full back. Additionally, he endured a coaching staff switch, with Jon Embree replacing Dan Hawkins, before his perseverance and skill finally were rewarded with a scholarship on the first day of camp his junior year.
“Other people believe in him,” Clemenson said, “They know they’re going to get his best effort. It’s on the field. It’s off the field. He just treats people well.”
After catching seven balls for 103 yards last year, Wood returns for his final college football season with a new set of challenges to ensure the last chapter of his college football career retains his journey’s story value.
Wood comes into this year with a brand new coaching staff again. Mark MacIntyre took the helm in December, after leading San Jose State to a 10-2 record and a Military Bowl Victory.
When he arrived in Boulder, MacIntyre made his values clear with little hesitation.
“We knew what he wanted to teach us, what he expected from us and what he wanted out of us in the classroom within the first month,” Wood said.
Along with a hefty set of standards, MacIntyre also brought a new pistol offense to Boulder.
MacIntyre’s scheme, which bolstered the nation’s highest completion percentage at 72.1 last season, is part of the reason Wood is happy about his change back to tight end, though he faces stiff competition for the starting spot from fellow senior, Scott Fernandez, and junior Kyle Slavin.
“I was all for it because it’s kind of what I played in high school,” Wood said, referencing the spread offense that allowed him to rack up 1,200 yards, 96 receptions and nine touchdowns his senior year. “It gives us an opportunity to do a lot of different stuff.”
The options the pistol presents seem destined to improve last year’s offense, partially because there is nowhere to go but up for the Buffs. CU put up a Pac-12 worst 17.8 points per game, which didn’t help their 121st ranked defense.
Even with all these new tests, if Wood’s past is any indication, he has college football right where he wants it. The Steamboat native has thrived on adversity, and if in facing all these new tests, his role shrinks this year, Wood recognizes numbers will not define his legacy.
“I want to be able to leave the school with a great feeling of accomplishment,” Wood said. “Whether it’s on special teams, or starting on offense, as long as I helped the team out, I want to leave with that.”
Steamboat Springs football echoes that same sentiment that Wood has given us an underdog story to believe in.
“Whatever ends up happening with Alex Wood,” Clementson said, “We’re proud of him.”
Jake Miller, a 2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is working as a summer intern for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He recently completed his freshman year at Nebraska Wesleyan University.