Former Del Oro football star Woods lands at Sierra College after being turned away by Marines

Shoulder injury prevents him from achieving longtime dream
By: Trevor Horn / Auburn Journal Correspondent
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Since he was a sixth-grader, all Tanner Woods wanted was to be a Marine.

He spoke animatedly about it. When the former Del Oro High football star was introduced as a recipient of a Sacramento River Cats All-City award in May, the emcee asked Woods where he was going to college.

His response, with a mile-wide grin on his face, was “University of Camp Pendleton.”

A month later, all set to graduate and head off to serve his country, Woods was dropping younger brother Logan off at a Golden Eagles practice when a phone call changed the direction of the life that seemed destined for him.

His recruiter called to inform him that a nagging shoulder injury that never took him off the field, but always lingered, would be too severe for military entrance.

The dream was shattered.

‘Strong character’

The initial reaction for Woods was commendable. He didn’t lash out, initially, saying, “It’s not the path that the good Lord had intended for me.”

But the pain in his shoulder couldn’t hold a candle to that which was stirring inside of him. Woods went “into a dark place” for a few days. Unable to grasp he wasn’t going to have a career as a Marine, Woods fell deep into depression.

But when he came back up, the reflection that he saw in the mirror was not one that he could recognize. Woods then said he was not going to allow this detour to stop him from achieving something great again.

Woods realized that the depression he was feeling was temporary and what he calls “strong character” allowed him to realize that one closed door wasn’t the end.

“I had to rely on furthering my love of faith, family and football,” Woods said.

Just two weeks later, Woods contacted Sierra College football coach Ben Noonan, telling him he was ready to play football again. The shoulder injury was not suitable for military entrance, but has been cleared to play on the gridiron.

That was news many people in Woods’ life couldn’t wait to hear.

“Everyone wanted to watch me play some more football,” Woods said. “(My family and friends) were obviously upset that my dreams didn’t work out for me. But there is the upside that I get to keep playing ball.”

‘He fits in great’

Noonan, who recruited Woods since last fall, said having a player like Woods on the roster only bolsters an already deep defensive line and has brought leadership to the team. That’s the same strong mentality and work ethic that made Woods an all-area standout and a three-year starter for Del Oro after accumulating 136 tackles and 20 sacks his final two seasons.

“It was an unfortunate situation for him. I know he’s real disappointed,” Noonan said. “He had his heart set on that for quite some time. We stayed with him.

“We just let him know, ‘Hey man, you always got a home with us.’ He fits in great. All the guys like him. I hear a lot of good things from his teammates about him as well.”

That comes as no surprise to Del Oro faithful. Gregarious and cordial, Woods was also the showman for the Golden Eagles during a banner season, pulling out his infamous two-handed gunslinger gesture after a big tackle.

Humbled by the experience of losing his dream, Woods now speaks with a bit of maturity saying, “If given the chance to show my mettle out here, I might someday give the crowd a show.”

Woods is competing for playing time this fall for the Wolverines, who open on the road at City College of San Francisco on Sept. 6.

‘Great future’

Despite not being able to serve his country, Woods said he has been in contact with Mark Soto, the founder of the Honor Group, letting him know that he would gladly give back to the military community whenever he can. Last September, Del Oro football players were given the chance to speak with wounded military personnel at Camp Pendleton, a moment Woods said he will carry with him throughout life.

“I felt very fortunate to be a part of that,” Woods said. “To play in the Honor Bowl and taking the tour with the wounded veterans, it was absolutely one of the most humbling experiences of my life. It makes me even that more proud to have wanted to be a Marine.”

Woods now has his eyes on a college degree and possible future as a Fish and Game warden.

And the chance to play football one freeway exit from home in Loomis, well, that is something that a lot of people are excited about for Woods.

“I am really happy for him,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “He is a great player and I feel he has a great future on the field. Most importantly, it will keep him in school and help him work on getting an education.”