JD Woods sets two new NAIA rushing records


Lauren Alley

Senior JD Woods broke the NAIA record for touchdowns while playing William Penn University where Baker won 47-21.

On Saturday, Sept. 4 senior JD Woods set a new National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) rushing touchdown record as Baker defeated William Penn 47-21. Woods finished the day with four rushing touchdowns, but the most significant was the first of the day. The touchdown gave Woods his 76th career rushing touchdown, passing the previous record of 75 set by Dusty McGrorty of Southern Oregon from 2000-2003. 

On Saturday, Sept. 25 Woods became NAIA’s all-time leader for rushing yards in a career. Derek Besgrove of Walsh University set the record from 2000-2003 with 5,378 rushing yards gained. Woods completed the game against Clarke University with 142 rushing yards, but only needed 24 rushing yards to break Besgrove’s record.

JD Woods has been a key player in Baker football for years. However, he always thought he would be a basketball player.  

“I thought I was a basketball player until I got into high school. When I stopped growing, I thought to myself, ‘Okay, this isn’t going to work out,’” Woods explains. “My sophomore year I quit basketball and told myself, ‘Maybe I’m pretty good at football.’”  

Woods made the All-State team his junior year at Lawrence High School (LHS) and went on to set the all-time rushing record at LHS with 3,909 yards. After high school, Woods committed to play football at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. Woods redshirted his freshman year, meaning he didn’t compete against other teams and kept a year of eligibility.

He transferred to Baker University in 2017 to be closer to home. The Wildcats were known for their winning culture and were repeated contenders for the national title.

Since transferring to Baker, Woods and the Wildcat football team have sustained unrelenting success. Last year marked their sixth consecutive Heart of America South Division title. The team finished their 2020 regular season with a perfect 6-0 record and went 4-0 in the Heart of America South Division. In the regular season, the Wildcats scored 236 points while only giving up 35. Even with the team’s success, Woods has managed to build several strong relationships with his teammates which is what drove him to come back for a 5th year.

“[My teammates] were a big reason I came back to Baker. After losing to Morningside University, I thought, ‘I don’t want this to be my last game with these guys. We built a relationship together and still have some business to finish,” Woods said. 

Head Football Coach Jason Thoren has been Woods’ head coach for three years. Thoren speaks highly of Woods, saying he admires his work ethic and his perfect practice attendance. Thoren also explains since JD is a fifth-year senior, he is a great role model for younger players to see someone that enjoys coming out and playing football with such skill.  

“JD has always been a straight and narrow kind of guy. He’s never crossed my desk for any behavioral reason,” Thoren said. “JD is the type of guy that you’re going to miss as a player but you’re going to miss even more as a person because he’s fun to be around and enjoys playing the game.” 

Off the field, Woods enjoys engaging with the community. In 2020, he put together a shoe drive for kids in Lawrence titled Kicks 4 Kids. Woods and high school friend Anthony Harvey organized a local shoe drive where they collected more than 300 pairs of shoes for kids in the Lawrence community. The two raised approximately $1,500 which they donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, Kan.

“I think that’s one of the best things I’ve seen anybody do. His ability to look out for the community and those kids is really remarkable. I’m very impressed with what he’s been able to do,” Thoren said. 

Woods is known for his drive to be successful, not only in football but also in life.  

“He’s always in the office wanting to learn football. He’s already graduated and now working on his master’s degree. He does everything off the field right. That’s a great example how to be successful, really in anything,” Thoren said. “He’s got a gigantic heart. He cares about people, which I think is the biggest and best quality you can have.”  

Senior Nate Pauly has played with Woods at Baker since 2017. He describes Woods as caring, explaining how he brought the seniors together to get a present for Marco Aguinaga, the starting quarterback for the Wildcats. Woods felt the seniors were overdue in showing their appreciation for Aguinaga and his leadership on the team.

Pauly also says Woods is extremely humble and lets his actions do the talking. He says Woods trains hard in the summer and winter and his work has paid off on the football field.

“He could showboat and talk about how he has all these records, but he just lets the game talk for himself. He works in silence. I’m just happy for all the success that’s coming his way,” Pauly said.