Woody Widenhofer passed away today at the age of 77.
You may not know the name, but I assure you, he was a pretty solid football coach, known for his scheme of WoodyBall, with the mantra “Have fun, expect to win.” The second part may not have held true as much as the first part did.
In honor of the man, I wanted to share the funniest story I think I’ve ever heard about a college football coach. This story came courtesy of the Kansas City Star in 2013, a full six years after his final coaching gig as the defensive coordinator of New Mexico State:
Pulling up to a toll booth for the Florida bridge that connects Niceville and Destin, Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh Henson promptly was engaged by the pleasant fellow inside.
In a Hawaiian shirt, wearing a Super Bowl watch and at least one Super Bowl ring, the man peered over the end of his glasses at the logo on Henson’s shirt and asked, “Jacksonville Jaguars?”
Told it was the Missouri Tigers, the man said, “Missouri Tigers?”
Yes sir, said Henson, who had no notion what he would hear next.
“I used to be the coach there,” the man said. “I’m Woody Widenhofer.”
Think about that for a second. Woody was a former head coach of a Big 12 and SEC program, a former defensive coordinator in the NFL, and after all that, decided to just work anonymously as a toll booth operator in Florida.
The guy went from scheming nickel and dime defenses to collecting nickel and dimes from drivers.
Mike Leach couldn’t have thought up a story that ridiculous. I mean, that would be like Gene Chizik going to work as a mailman, or Les Miles going to work at a Dippin’ Dots kiosk… which the more that I think about it probably isn’t too much out of the question.
Sure, Nick Saban has like 15 national titles, 120 top rank recruiting classes, and every coach of the year award under the sun on his resume, but has he ever been able to give change for a $20 without starting a traffic jam? I didn’t think so. Therefore, Woody > Saban.
Woody Widenhofer was the head coach at my alma mater, Mizzou from 1985-1988, where he went 12-31-1. Sounds about right. He also went to school there and played linebacker under Dan Devine. After coaching at Mizzou, he later went on to coach at Vanderbilt from 1997 to 2001 where he went 15-40, including a 5-6 season in 1999, which, for those late ’90s Vandy teams, was like winning a BCS national title. The man has a Super Bowl ring from his time as an assistant with the Steelers, where he helped with the “Steel Curtain” defense. No word on if he wore his freaking Super Bowl ring to the toll booth every day.
You’ve heard of a two-way player, he was a two-way coach. In fact, he may very well be the last head coach/toll booth operator we ever see in football. Not to mention, with his passing, football coaches named Woody may be extinct as well, if not, at least endangered.
And finally, Woody was the only head coach I can think of who looked exactly like the old Dunkin Donuts “Time To Make The Donuts” guy.
Hell, come to think of it. That very well could have been Woody Widenhofer’s side gig. Make donuts in the morning, coach football in the afternoon, and collect coins on interstates in the evening.
What a legend. Rest in peace, Woody.