/ FACES Magazine February 2017
Ottawa Native, former CFL player, former NFL player and current Strength Coordinator of the Ottawa Redblacks, Pat Woodcock, continues to dedicate his time and energy to his bigger passion in life, the world of football. Pat started playing football at a very young age and is still heavily involved in the sport even today. Having played for the New York Giants in 2001 and later playing for a variety of CFL teams, including the Ottawa Renegades in 2004-2005, Pat continues to share his knowledge, experiences and passion for the game. He’s currently the Strength Coordinator for the Ottawa Redblacks, having recently helped the team win their first Grey Cup in nearly 20 years.
Faces Magazine had a chance to speak with the former Holy Trinity High School student to discuss his journey to playing professional football, his experience as the Redblacks Strength Coordinator and what it meant to him to win the 2016 Grey Cup.
You were born in Kanata, what was life like for you growing up and what are some of your favourite memories of your childhood in that part of the city?
I grew up in Kanata, I met my wife here. I was always obviously a bit of a sports guy. I mean, I played soccer, mostly. I also played football growing up. I got into track and field and basketball in high school. A lot of my childhood memories revolve around sports. But it was a different time back then. A lot of time was spent playing sports in an unstructured way, so I’d be out playing with my friends, whether it was pick-up basketball or touch football...just backyard stuff. I definitely have a lot of good memories from just being outside and being active, and I have a lot of good friends from that time of my life.
When did you start playing football? Do you remember what attracted you to the sport as a child?
I started when I was 8 years old. Both of my parents played touch football when I was growing up. Football was always their favourite sport to watch on T.V., so I was always surrounded by the sport. I was that kid that was always begging kids to throw me the ball. Once I found out that there were teams available for my age at the time, I got right into it.
You signed in the NFL with the New York Giants – can you describe the feeling of walking onto an NFL field, preparing to return the opening kick-off, the electricity in the crowd must have been amazing.
It was for sure. That rookie year was a bit of a whirlwind. Obviously, draft day came and went, I signed as a free agent and pretty much right away, I was gone to mini-camp the next weekend. So, I didn’t really have a chance to wrap my head around it completely. You step on to the field with those guys and it’s just a different level. Everyone there was a superstar in college and now, it’s not just competing for playing time; you’re competing for your livelihood and to have a professional career. It was an unbelievable experience. Having the opportunity to go there, from where I started on the roster to end up making that team, it was a huge confidence builder early on in my career and I think it gave me a lot in terms of the confidence I needed in order to have a great rest of my career that I did.
You hold the CFL record for the longest reception in Grey Cup history – a 99 yard touchdown pass during the 2002 Grey Cup game where your Montreal Alouettes went on to win against the Edmonton Eskimos --- what are your memories of that catch? What was going through your mind while you were running down the field?
It was a pretty miserable day. The footing was terrible and the weather was really bad. Up until that point, there hadn’t been a ton of offence. We ditched the play that was called, I had a diagonal route, it basically just meant that I needed to run diagonally and depending on coverage, I may or may not be the first read in the progression. They moved me into a different spot and they got me a matchup that favoured my speed going across the middle. The ball came right where the QB always put it, right in my hands. Just as a caught it, I could feel the safety behind me slipping and missing the tackle. It was just green grass in front of me from there. From there, it was just run as fast as I could to the end zone and make sure that nobody catches me.
You are now the Strength Coordinator for the Ottawa Redblacks? How have you enjoyed transitioning into the coaching side of things? What do you like most about working with the guys?
I’ve been coaching ever since I finished playing. I own Elite Coach Performance Academy here in Kanata and I train a wide variety of athletes, as we have a ton of different professional athletes come through here throughout the year. I’ve been coaching and I love that element of it. Not just the technical stuff in terms of the strengths, but being able to share my experiences and the things that helped me overcome my obstacles, those types of things with the athletes have been huge. Being able to be part of the Redblacks has been huge. There’s just another element to it, given the fact that I’ve played for that team. It’s a different animal when you’re dealing with professionals, for them to know that I’ve been in their shoes and that I know what they’re going through, I think that brings out an extra element of trust.
What advice do you have for young kids growing up playing football that you wish you had received when you were a kid?
Honestly, I wish I started training sooner. It was a different time back then, everybody just played a wide variety of different sports, which is great for sure. I’d never tell kids not to do that, I think the more sports you play, the better, as it helps you develop all around. When I got to Syracuse, I was way too small and way too weak, so I would’ve started those things a few years earlier and given myself a little bit more of a chance to hit the ground running when I got to Syracuse.
At the time of this interview, the Redblacks are preparing for the Grey Cup this Sunday in Toronto against the Calgary Stampeders.. what do you think are the keys for the Redblacks to win this weekend?
I think the keys for this weekend are the same as they’ve been all year long, and that’s really just to not make mistakes. When we play well, when we play our game and we don’t turn the ball over, that’s when we’ve been successful. I think the Calgary Stampeders are a very talented team and we’re going to have to be on the very top of our game and to not give them any inches because if we do give them an advantage, they’re going to take it for sure. We just need to play our game, be smart with the ball and be in the right positions on defence. I think we showed this past week in November, when we put the whole game together, we’re capable of beating anybody.
What would it feel like for you to be part of the team that finally brings home a Grey Cup to the city of Ottawa after almost a 40-year drought?
It would be pretty amazing. I think that this year being back with the team, there has been a bunch of full-circle moments for me and I think that one would really be the icing on the cake. For me, I was a season ticket holder for the Roughriders when I was growing up, then I was a ball-boy, so I know the stress levels that the fans have had. Obviously, I was also part of the Renegades so I know how hungry this city is to have a football team and we see that from the fans in the stadium each and every week. To be able to bring a championship back home to Ottawa would be absolutely amazing.
The Ottawa Redblacks went on to win the Grey Cup in Toronto on Sunday November 27th.
What was the atmosphere on the team going to Toronto for the Grey Cup?
I think across the board we had a quiet confidence the entire week. Most of the media attention was focused on Calgary - they had the best record, they won most of the individual awards - but amongst ourselves I don’t think there was ever a doubt that we were in a great position to go and win that game.
And the pre-game? How did you prepare the team?
From my side of things the lead into the game was very low key. Not a lot of training going on during that final week - our focus was recovery and mobility. After twenty plus weeks, the goal was to have guys feeling as fresh and strong as possible for the game - and I think that showed in our play.
At what point did you feel you had the game? Can you discuss how it went and any major plays.
It was a really strange game. I never felt like we had it totally in control, but I didn’t think we were going to lose either. The onside kick that Calgary recovered was probably the most nervous I got, but once we held them to a field goal and went into overtime I was confident we had the momentum in our favour.
How does it feel to bring home the first Grey cup Ottawa has seen in 40 years, winning it in the same place as the Roughriders in 1976?
It’s a very special feeling for me. I grew up going to Rough Riders games, and saw the demise of that team from a fan’s perspective. I joined the Renegades in 2004 with the hopes of helping restore the glory of Ottawa football, and was disappointed that we weren’t able to make that happen. To now be a part of the RedBlacks team that has made football special again, and brought the Grey Cup back to Ottawa is an amazing thing to share with all of RNation.
A little bit of well-deserved time off right now! Most of the guys will take a few weeks to let their bodies recover and maybe take a little vacation. In the new year we will get back to work—the major focus early on is rebuilding a base of strength and healthy movement for each guy to set them up for
a great off-season and even better