With 25.0 sacks and 40 tackles for loss in three years at Central Arkansas, Jonathan Woodard, a 6-5, 275-pound defensive end prospect, is a pretty safe bet to hear his name called in this year’s NFL Draft.
His journey to the NFL, however, goes beyond mere measurables. Indeed, Woodard has drawn inspiration from the passing of his close friend, Payne Shanafelt, who committed suicide in August 2014.
“Honestly, it took awhile to really cope with it,” Woodard said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show, “but I tried to use it for motivation, just playing for him the whole season. That was my best season at UCA. I just tried to use it as motivation, playing for him and his family and just trying to make them all proud.”
Woodard had 56 tackles – 18.5 for loss – and 10.0 sacks that season. He even changed jersey numbers, switching to No. 3 – Shanafelt’s number in high school.
Woodard still thinks about his friend and misses him a great deal, of course, but he’s also learned a lot of life lessons since Shanafelt’s passing.
“(I’m) just making sure to always confide in friends, family, teammates and coaches,” Woodard said. “I was blessed to have a great coaching staff, great teammates and great D-linemen (in college). I was really close with all those guys. I definitely feel like I could come to them with anything and I definitely thought they could feel the same way with me. As far as people who are dealing with depression and things like that, just try to be there for them any way you can. Don’t push them away. You never really know how someone might really be feeling. In Payne’s case, obviously we were all really caught off guard from it, but really being able to always lend an open ear and (being) there for (people is important).”