In his first head coaching job, Rashaun Woods knows he has his work cut out for him.
The former Oklahoma State star wide receiver is taking over a John Marshall football program that went 0-10 in Class 3A last season.
But his first concern isn't exactly about winning more games. It's about changing attitudes.
“The biggest goal, if you want to call it that, is getting a commitment,” Woods said. “It's about having kids understand that they have to be committed to have success. Committed to coming to practice everyday, committed to the weight program, committed in the classroom. If we do those things well, winning games and having success will start to go right along with it.”
Despite their record last season, Woods doesn't believe a lack of talent is his team's real problem.
“I don't really know what it was like last season, because I wasn't there,” Woods said. “But the morale was definitely down when I got here. We have to build that up. We have to help them believe in themselves and believe they can have success. I feel like they're an extremely talented group of guys, but they have to believe that.”
Since his hiring in January, Woods' impact has already caught the attention of coaches outside the program. Including Casady's Koby Scoville, who hosted a team camp this spring that John Marshall attended.
“It seems like the kids have really bought into Rashaun and the coaching staff,” Scoville said. “In very little time together they already looked like they knew what is expected of them and how to play as a team. I think that's largely due to what Rashaun has brought to them.”
Senior Devion Smith will be one of the Bears' most talented returning players this fall. Smith, who will play receiver and defensive back, is currently taking summer classes to ensure he will qualify academically should he receive any scholarship offers.
“I think Devion is going to be a great player for us,” Woods said. “He's doing really well, and I've been impressed with him. His past has been a rocky situation, so I'm hoping with me being here and his newfound work ethic, things will be good for him.”
Woods is well known for his accomplishments at Oklahoma State, where he racked up 4,414 receiving yards and 42 touchdowns on 293 catches. He admits his Cowboy career has helped him gain players' respect, but Woods maintains that he still has a lot to prove to his team.
“I think initially that maybe I had their attention because they knew who I was,” Woods said. “But they still have to see me doing the right things and working hard. That's what it took for me to get to that point, and I can prove to them that's what it takes. I want to be a blueprint for them on how to carry yourself as a football player and in society.”
After ending his professional playing career in 2008, Woods — who was the San Francisco 49ers' first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft — spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Star Spencer and his alma mater, Millwood. Both are programs that have experienced recent success.
However, Woods is well aware that coaching at John Marshall presents a different set of expectations. For now, it'll be about getting back to the basics for the Bears.
“Fundamentals and understanding the game of football is important,” Woods said. “Before I got here it didn't seem like, or at least not to the level I'm accustomed to seeing, that they understood the game. Getting our guys to the level that I feel comfortable with football wise is important. If we can do that, I know without a doubt we'll be successful.”