- Associated Press - Friday, August 27, 2010

EDMOND, OKLA. (AP) - As Artrell Woods lay motionless on Oklahoma State’s weight room floor, Hubert Anyiam looked on in shock.

A freshman, Anyiam was just getting acquainted with the Cowboys’ conditioning program when he witnessed an accident that would make anyone cringe. His teammate, Woods, had just completed a step-up drill when he went to return his 185-pound barbell and slipped.

The weight came crashing down on top of Woods, who knew something wasn’t right with his spine.

As Anyiam looked on, he and his teammates could only wonder, “Is he going to get up?”

That was three years ago. The spinal cord injury left him partially paralyzed, but a determined Woods is back on the path toward becoming a top-notch receiver again. Now at Central Oklahoma, a Division II school in suburban Oklahoma City, Woods could make his debut as early as Saturday night when the Bronchos open their season against Pittsburg State.

He has a football dream he refuses to let die.

“That’s one thing I always believed in, just keeping my faith,” Woods said. “After what happened with the back situation, I was allowed to walk again, I was allowed to run again. God put it on my heart, so I felt like it’s something I need to do.

“I also owe it to my family because I’m still that one last hope. I feel like the pressure’s on.”

Just getting back on the field to catch a pass isn’t enough for Woods. He already did that at Oklahoma State, getting a standing ovation for a 7-yard reception after he’d made his initial recovery following the July 2007 accident.

Now, he’s after something more. He wants to develop far enough that he gets the chance to play after college and improve his family’s way of life back home in Bryan, Texas.

Coach Tracy Holland believed in Woods‘ dream enough that he extended a scholarship offer when he heard that the one-time speedster was looking for a new place to play. Woods said he needed a change of scenery instead of walking into the same weight room where his life changed so dramatically.

The time has also given Woods time to grow stronger. He stayed in school but didn’t play through all of 2009, then arrived at Central Oklahoma in January. Then he tore an Achilles’ tendon, another potential hurdle in his recovery.

“Basically, Artrell said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable,’” Holland said.

Woods has done all he can to speed up his rehab to be ready for the season. Still, Holland is cautious about rushing Woods onto the field and risking a setback for a player he believes can be a difference-maker when he’s healthy again. Even if he doesn’t play Saturday night, Holland said “he will play and I think he will make a significant contribution to this team.”

“I know with the drive and the heart that he’s got, he’s going to get it back where he wants it,” Holland said.

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