Woodland puts waiting behind, takes to the field for Missouri football team

Sunday, August 30, 2009 | 7:07 p.m. CDT; updated 5:34 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 31, 2009
Rolandis Woodland works through Missouri's final scrimmage Thursday. He is gearing up to play his first season as a receiver for the Tigers. After attending a prep school for a semester, Woodland redshirted last season.

COLUMBIA — Rolandis Woodland waited. The redshirt freshman receiver ran his routes during the Missouri football team’s scrimmage Thursday at Devine Pavilion. But mostly he blocked as other receivers caught passes . Finally, almost an hour into the scrimmage, he caught a short pass along the sideline from quarterback Jimmy Costello.

Woodland has worked his way to No. 3 on the depth chart at his receiver position, behind senior Jared Perry and sophomore Brandon Gerau, and he will make his regular-season debut Saturday when Missouri faces Illinois at the Edward Jones Dome.

But for the St. Louis native waiting to catch a pass in practice was nothing compared to the waiting Woodland did before last season’s Illinois game.

After finishing his prep school career, Woodland came to Missouri and participated in voluntary off-season conditioning. But once official practices started, he couldn’t practice or play until the NCAA finished its review of his academic records.

“The second two-a-days, they pulled me out,” Woodland said. “I was just at home, just crying and stuff. I was like, ‘I guess God has a plan for me.'"

As he waited at home, the Missouri coaches called Woodland and assured him everything was going to work out. 

Finally, "the day of the Illinois game, they came through,” said Woodland.  

“I know that the NCAA, they have rules that they have to stand by,” Rolanda Woodland said, “and Rolandis was really patient, and he really supported his team throughout all of that.”

Woodland redshirted last year, working in practice to catch up on what he missed during the preseason.

“He felt like if he could have gotten cleared early, he could have played last year as a freshman,” said Fred Whigham, Woodland's mentor since eighth grade. “And he kept on wondering, ‘What’s taking so long? Why won’t they go ahead and get me cleared?’”

Consequently, it makes Woodland's appearance Saturday at the Edwards Jones Dome that much more sweet.

“Seeing him run out of that tunnel next week at the dome, that he’s finally made it, I’m happy for the kid,” Whigham said.

In high school, Woodland wanted to play football at Missouri. He is a cousin of former Tiger receiver William Franklin. When Woodland visited the campus, he decided he wanted to follow in his cousin’s footsteps.

“I was always around the Tigers and everything,” Woodland said. “And we would just always hang out. No matter what colleges you go to, if you come here it’s like a family atmosphere.”

As Woodland’s high school career progressed, he began to get recruited by Missouri. But he realized his grades weren’t good enough to be able to play college football.

“When I started high school, I was kind of playing around a little bit,” he said. “I wasn’t as focused as I could be on my academics.”

He decided to focus more on school to be able to play at Missouri.

“As time went on, I started to open up the book and leave the other stuff alone,” he said. “I started focusing on my schoolwork. I just knew what to do to get where I wanted to be. If I didn’t change my grades, or if I didn’t improve I don’t think I would have been here.”

Woodland’s early grades caught up to him. In order to be eligible to play at Missouri, it was determined he would have to go to prep school. It was decided he would go to Harmony Community School in Cincinnati.

“That broke my heart,” he said. “It was a big letdown."

But Missouri reinforced its commitment to Woodland, encouraging him to work hard while he was there.

"I just worked hard, worked my butt off and just thought Missouri, thought Missouri, that was my main focus," he said. "I just blocked everything out and thought about coming here.”

Now that he's at Missouri, Woodland is leaving his mark on and off the field.

“He’s a very gifted guy,” offensive coordinator David Yost said. “There’s no doubt when you read the recruiting hype, his athleticism, what he can do with the football, get vertical, make plays, it’s definitely there.”

In the classroom, Woodland is pursuing a degree in education and has a 3.9 G.P.A. He would like to one day teach middle school English.

“That’s when they tend to develop and get into following and stuff,” he said. “I want to be a leader and show them the way.”

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