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Not Out Of The Woods
November 06, 2008
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By Wendell Barnhouse
Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent

On the stat sheet, it was equivalent to a speck of sand on a beach.

Receiving No. Yards TD Long
Woods, Artrell 1 7 0 0

But when Woods, a sophomore, caught a four-yard pass and added three yards before stepping out of bounds, the fans remaining in Boone Pickens Stadium responded with a standing ovation. They knew the back story to a garbage time reception in a blowout victory.

"It's a big relief. I didn't think I was going to get a standing ovation like I did," Woods said of his first reception of 2008. "It really felt welcoming and it felt great. I didn't think it would take this long."

Woods is fortunate to be walking, much less playing wide receiver in the Big 12 Conference. In July of 2007, during a routine weight lifting session, Woods stumbled and fell. The 185-pound bar he had supported across his shoulders landed on his neck and two displaced vertebrae.

Surgery was performed the next day. Woods awoke to good news. He could wiggle his toes.

"That was a pretty good feeling," he said. "That's when I knew I could probably walk again."

Indeed, 11 days later Woods was walking.

"The first few days after the accident, my goal was for him to walk again, to just have a normal life," Oklahoma State head athletic trainer Rob Hunt told The Oklahoman. "Football wasn't even an issue. Artie and I never talked about him playing football again."

There was extensive rehab involved before Woods could make a complete recovery. Instead of starting last season opposite senior Adarius Bowman, Woods spent the 2007 season watching as a medical redshirt.

Before his injury, Woods caught two touchdown passes, including the game winner, in Oklahoma State's spring game in 2007. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, he was a combination of strength and speed that appeared to be a perfect fit in the Cowboys' offense after spending his freshman season in 2006 playing mostly on special teams.

"That was tough to do," he said of the forced inactivity. "I definitely believed I was going to be the best receiver on the team. I was sitting there knowing it could have been me out there on the field."

Woods participated in spring football but didn't participate in contact drills. He was cleared for full contact in pre-season practice. But his comeback was slowed when he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the second game against Houston.

His catch last Saturday against Iowa State was just another step along the comeback trail. "I think the crowd response really says it all," Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "We'd love to get him a touchdown because he's capable of that.

"He's just kinda getting back on the bicycle and riding again after obviously a pretty hard fall. But I think his confidence level will be boosted. As a staff we're for sure proud of him and what he's done for this football program."

Woods has been nominated for the Football Writers Association of America annual Courage Award.

"It's been real hard," Woods said of the 16 months since his injury. "I've had some days where I was real angry with everybody.

"Before, I think I took a lot of things for granted. I don't feel that way anymore. I just feel that I'm lucky."

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