When Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore wide receiver and Rivals250 member Danny Woodson first heard that he had received an invitation to the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the normally reserved senior had a tough time hiding his excitement from his teammates, friends and coaches.
"When I found out I got the invitation, I was amazed and immediately felt so blessed that I'm in a position to get such an honor," Woodson said. "I first started watching the Army All-American Game when DeSean Jackson was playing in it. I remember watching it then and thinking how much I would love to play in that game and now I get to live out that dream."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Alabama commit is one of three players from the state of Alabama to receive an invitation to the game thus far and said he feels a great sense of pride to have the opportunity to represent his home state.
"I actually know quite a few guys that are going to be there, especially the guys from Alabama: Jonathan Rose and Brent Calloway," he said. "I know the three of us are all going in there wanting to play well for ourselves but we also want to represent the state of Alabama. I think it would also be cool for me and Brent to show everybody what the University of Alabama has in store for the next few years."
Since committing to the Crimson Tide in March, Woodson has yet to waiver in his commitment despite heavy recruiting efforts from a number of SEC programs.
"I have no doubts whatsoever about my commitment. For me, it's Roll Tide all the way," he said. "The class that coach Nick Saban is putting together is a really special bunch of athletes and we have a lot of guys in this class that know how to win. I think with Coach Saban's help we can do some special things at Alabama."
After racking up 25 touchdowns for LeFlore a year ago, Woodson has hauled in 14 touchdown receptions so far this season and led his team to a playoff berth.
"Our season has gone pretty well overall," he said. "Everybody is playing hard every week and I really think we've given great effort down the stretch. We made it to the playoffs and now we're focusing on winning one game at a time and seeing if we have what it takes to make a run at a state championship.
"I really believe in my teammates and I think we have the potential to go all the way if we keep working hard and believing we are good enough to do it."
Among the highlights of Woodson's senior season was a triple-overtime thriller against area rival Vigor in which Woodson squared off against fellow Crimson Tide commit Marvin Shinn.
"The game with Vigor was amazing," he said. "Every single player on both teams gave everything they had in that game and the atmosphere was crazy. Nobody wanted to lose and both defenses played great. In the end Vigor just had a few more plays than us and we made a few more mistakes than they did and they were able to pull out the win.
"I was actually really happy to see Marvin Shinn play so well. I wanted our team to win but it's hard not to enjoy watching him play. It's going to be great when we're finally making plays for the same team."
While Woodson has had to adjust his game this year to deal with double- and triple-team coverage at times, the senior star said he believes the biggest improvements he has made as a player this season show up more on the sidelines than on the field.
"I think the thing I really tried to do this year that I haven't always done before is try and pick my teammates up when things start going wrong," he said. "It's natural when the game isn't going your way to start to get down and feel discouraged but I think it's a leader's job to keep that from happening and keep people's spirits up.
"Comebacks happen but they can only happen if the whole team keeps believing they are going to win, even when things aren't going well. That's when leaders have to come through and I've really tried to make that my job this year."
Of all the friends, family members and local fans, Woodson said the support he values the most comes from his grandmother, who never misses a chance to see her grandson play in person.
"She's my No. 1 fan," he said. "Every time I score, I look for her in the stands and we point at each other. She's been there for me my whole life and I always keep her in mind when I play. She's a big part of my motivation. I want to make her proud. She's planning on coming out for the Army All-American game but she's not really into flying. We'll have to figure out some way to get her down there."
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl, played on Jan. 8 in San Antonio, is in its 11th year and will be televised by NBC.