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A Conversation With: JT Woods
The rookie safety shares why he feels the Chargers are the ‘perfect team’ for him, his track background, the debate between Whataburger and In-N-Out, and more.
By Hayley Elwood Jul 19, 2022

With training camp nearly here, we'll be periodically checking in with Chargers players ahead of the 2022 season.

Our next conversation features rookie safety JT Woods, who the Bolts selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Baylor.

Here's more from Woods on why he feels the Chargers are the 'perfect team' for him, his track background, the debate between Whataburger and In-N-Out, and more.

How would you describe these last few months?

Woods: Oh my gosh! I would definitely say it's been a dream come true, for sure. It's really hard to put into words but I really fell into the perfect team for me with the perfect people around me. It's nothing but a dream I get to live every single day so I'm very thankful for that.

When you call this team 'perfect' and talk about the people, what else is it about the Chargers that makes this such a good fit for you?

Woods: It's not just players or coaches, but also staff. There's never been a day where I've walked into the building and didn't see a smile on every person's face. That's something that was really important to me; being in a healthy work environment. I know from the first day I stepped into the organization, that's what it was. It's family-oriented which I love because I'm really big on family. But also, to be in California, in a beautiful place. It's 70 degrees and sunny every single day so I get to have the opportunity where I can bring my family out to CA and get them away from the Texas heat and see the beach. I think for me, being in a healthy work environment and having people who are going to nurture me and bring me up to be not only a better football player, but a better man, it's literally crazy to think that I am a Charger and where I am in my life right now.

Speaking of the people, we recently posted an interview with Nasir Adderley and he talked about you and mentioned how he's trying to help you as you come into this league.

What has getting to know him been like?

Woods: Nas is very special because he's very, very smart. He knows a lot of things on and off football. He's been influential with financial literacy. Not a lot of people have the type of financial literacy he does. He literally sat down with me in the locker room and talked about life insurance policies and things you'd never think about as a 21-year-old, but things that are important now. He's offered me a lot of knowledge outside of football. It's really nice to have people in the locker room who talk about life things.

I'm gonna be honest, I've done a ton of interviews and I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone speak to the financial literacy part of the game like you have.

You mention you guys are humans, football is your job, but where does that penchant for off the field knowledge you want to gain come from?

Woods: I'm not really sure where it came from.  I think for me, I've always wanted to see more. I love football. I love football with a passion, it's super important to me. But why I love football the most is because of the people that it allows you to be with and the knowledge that we [gain] because of the different upbringings we have. We all have different upbringings, come from different backgrounds, even come from different countries! We have people from Canada! You get them all into one room, and they're all fighting for one goal: to win a Super Bowl. I think that's very unique, and you get to learn so much about people. 

I love the locker room environment; I love everyone I'm around. Obviously, they are teaching me a lot about the Xs and Os and football is our job and we're expected to do it at a very high level. Bar none, everybody is helping me and all the rookies around us get on that level. But we're 21, 22, coming into the league and this is the first time having a 'job' for a lot of people. It's just little things I'm thankful I have. You've heard nightmare stories from veterans not wanting to help the rookies because sometimes they feel like they're there to take their place. But that has never been the case for anybody [here]. We talk about how great the vets are and how they're really trying to help us develop.

You have a background in track, how did that help you with playing football?

Woods: The biggest thing was my speed. I like to say my speed is one of the better attributes I have. I like to say track helped me develop my speed differently. How you run on the football field is different than how you run on a track. It's crazy because my dad literally hated the way that I ran in football because it was how I ran in track. He told me my stride was too long and I needed to shorten it. 

But I think it's really helped me over time just developing my body and me being able to run in a straight line, or cut, and have high top end speed. There's also a different work ethic that goes into it as well. Especially in college, I was doing spring football practices and then would turn around and go walk to the track and do track practice. It helped me learn how to maintain my body at a really high level.

After you were drafted, Tom Telesco called you 'football fast' and noted how that track speed transitions to football speed.

He also said track in Texas is on another level. What sets it apart?

Woods: It's similar to football where track in Texas and Florida is huge. I actually started running track a little later than most people do; I started running hurdles in middle school. I was actually behind the curve in that aspect. But everything's bigger in Texas! That's just how it is.

What are your best skills as a safety?

Woods: My cerebral ability and ability to dissect the game and dissect plays. Obviously, we just talked about speed. But also, my instincts. I think my instincts help me make a lot of plays and use my athleticism and my speed to help me get the ball when I have a feeling that it's going to be in certain places.

We know the nickname, 'The Heartbreak Kid.' We know the story. Whose heart did you break the most in college?

Woods: Spencer Sanders at Oklahoma St. He gave me a couple gifts. It was a really tough game, probably one of the greatest games I've been part of so far in my football career. I ripped some hearts out early in that game.

You looking forward to doing that in the NFL now?

Woods: In this division, especially! There are a lot of Hall-of-Fame-esque in the division – and one on my team – so getting to go against that in practice has been an amazing thing.

Now that you've gotten on the field, looking at this defense from the football side, what are your impressions?

Woods: It's crazy to have all these Pro Bowlers and All Pros on one defense. The production that people had on previous teams and have had on this team is so amazing. So for me to have such a great room to learn from for myself – and also learn from guys in other rooms like Khalil Mack, Kyle Van Noy – it's crazy to kind of see the development of people at different teams and then come here. It's another thing that makes me confident I'm on the right team.

Final question, and it's the hard-hitting stuff. Talk to me about the burger scene in California and Texas. Are you a Whataburger guy? Have you had In-N-Out?

Woods: I haven't had In-N-Out in California, but even if I did, me being the Texan I am, I can't sway away from my bias to Whataburger. It is what it is.

You may leave the state, but it'll never leave you.

Woods: Yes! It's crazy because I had never really craved Whataburger. But when I got back to Texas I was like, 'Man, I want Whataburger really bad right now!' So I went and got my honey BBQ chicken strip sandwich, a strawberry shake and a large fry on the side. It was super good.

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