I swear that Joe Woodard is no regular human. There is no way that this extraordinary man cannot impress a person; he is potential local legend at Nipawin Bible College. Oh sure, you can tell me that he is just another guy and that everybody has some personality traits that set them apart from other guys. However, let me spin my yarn about the man who has become the equivalent to one of my "mighty men" (although I am not comparable in the least to King David, nor has Joe taken up the sword on my behalf and fought his way through the enemy to get me a cup of water).
Joe is a might big man. Blessed with a 6' 5" frame that is complemented by his broad-shouldered build, this intimidating figure has the heart and soul of the most chivalrous knight. With a sharp and thoughtful mind pokes and prods deeply for answers and a rational reminiscent of the many of history's greatest thinkers, he never accepts things blindly but always looks deeper for the foundation upon which the question is based on. His heart is passionate and dedicated to whatever it becomes set upon, but yet seems to avoid many of the objects and ideas that entrap any less focused individuals. He speaks softly and with great conviction, which takes a person off guard if they were judge his character and personality purely on this physical stature. His soul produces a contagious joy and passion that bursts forth from deep within, and yet it also will ache intensely with the hurts that come with life. He has and will continue to touch and change the hearts and minds of humanity, creating the ability to think deeper and look past the present sufferings of this world and focus on the glory that is coming for those who believe in Jesus Christ. This is what makes Joe Woodard the incredible person he is.
But I have not written this blog to bring to light his inner, sensitive side, as his humbleness would not allow it. My purpose here is to further clarify the heroic actions that have taken a quiet Alberta boy and turned him into one the the most memorable soccer players that I have ever played with.
"Why then", you may ask, "is that emotionally charged paragraph preceding the story of soccer!? You made it sound like the story was going to say that Joe single handedly rushed into a burning house and rescued the residents before suffering some injury that will plague him the rest of his life." To this I give the following answer: Joe has a passion for indoor soccer. You hear it every time he speaks about the past games he has played, or the memorable miracle run in the NISL playoffs in the 2008-2009 season. And it is this love of soccer that will forever keep him in the lore of the NBC Royals soccer history annuls. Let me explain a bit of how he achieved this prestigious status.
I played indoor soccer with Joe in my first two years of Bible College, and as a result have had a much closer and critical look at how he plays the game. He is an unsung hero of the sport, the Ron Francis of the indoor soccer world. Compile a list of the "greatest" players to play NISL, or make an All-Star team from players from the last half decade and I can almost guarantee you that I would be the only one to put down Joe's name on that voting ballet. The reason? Joe isn't flashy. He doesn't ball handle like Matthew Thiessen, he doesn't shoot like Josh Braun or play as physical as Adam Yadlowsky. Joe cannot control the game like a Jason Taylor, or pass as quick and accurately as Tim Schellenburg. However, Joe does the seemingly little things that save games and that allow a goalie to play a smarter and more relaxed game. So what does he do that creates the argument that he deserves to be recognized as an elite stay-at-home defenseman? Joe "The Wall" Woodard is the undisputed shot blocking king of the Nipawin Indoor Soccer League and the Prairie Athletic Conference.
Very, very rarely will Joe make a mistake while he is on defense and the other team has the ball. In fact, by "very, very rarely" I mean that I remember one solitary time that he failed to stop a ball that was in his vicinity, and in his defense he still got a piece of it. It was his first year playing and the ball just happened to defect off his mighty oak-like legs into the net. Further more, it wasn't a goal that cost us a win, it merely cost me a shut-out. Since then I have no memory of him failing to stop a ball that is fired into his direction. If it is possible for him to get his body in the way of the shot, he will. And this past weekend, Joe "The Wall" Woodard made the best defensive play of the tournament.
Me and Joe had been asked to play on a NBC alumni soccer team so that there would be a fourth team during the opening PAC tournament. Naturally we said yes, and the team that we had turned out to be competitive, skilled and incredibly fun to play with. Now our third game pitted us against the NBC Royals, who were the favorites to win the tournament (as they would later do). However, our team held a 1-0 lead for over half of the game, which was surprising because we were a bunch of older, old of shape people who were playing against teams that had been training for the past 3 months for these tournaments. Of course the Royals kept pushing for the tying goal, which the got courtesy of Andrew Jensen. They also got the winning goal from a persistent Kyle Larson, who put the ball in the net on a great third effort. But after this is when "the play" went down.
Matt Thiessen was pinned up along the wall and was obviously wanting to get the ball to a teammate. However, he had his head down trying to keep the ball protected and eventually took a bit of a guess on where to pass the ball. It just so happened that Troy Lydiate, arguably one of the most skilled players in the tournament , read the play and intercepted the ball before rushing off along the wall towards my net.
Now Troy has blazing speed and a spectacularly accurate and hard shot, so him rushing down the sideline towards me with no one in range to challenge him is enough for any goaltender to say say a prayer. I hobbled out to attempt to cut off some angle, but with a torn right groin I couldn't have possibly taken enough angle away from Troy. Now Troy is a very intelligent player and I believe that he knew that my right side was weak and open, which gave him a glorious opportunity to place a ball anywhere to my right with a great chance of it finding the net behind me. But the near certainty of a put-away goal was thwarted the unselfish and desperate efforts of "The Wall".
As Troy was winding up to fire the ball home past my crouching, pitiful form, I picked up a blurry figure in my peripheral vision. A large red jersey with powerful legs came whistling across the court as quick as ANY player could have. As Troy released the shot with nothing but net in mind, one of Joe's large, powerful legs planted itself right in front on the shot. WHHHAAAACKKKK!!!!! The ball smoked the upper calf of Joe before caroming off, ending the scoring threat.
Now this might not seem like an act of heroism, but I can tell you from experience that having Troy fire a ball at you with such velocity makes the most experienced of keepers cringe. And Joe isn't known for speed, but the entire crowd agreed that seeing Joe spring from one side of the gym to the other so quickly was one of those things that you must see to believe. It is this play that should have earned Joe the game MVP for our team and should place him in PAC lore for generations to come.