‘A miracle’: Sherman LB Woods overcomes birth condition

Even with as long a history as Sherman has of producing great athletes, senior Kahlee Woods will almost certainly go down as the greatest linebacker the Bearcats have ever produced.

With 431 tackles in his three-year varsity career, Woods is far and away the career record-holder at Sherman High School. A three-star recruit according to Rivals, Woods has scholarship offers from at least eight colleges, but will wait until the season is over to decide.

“Every year I want to improve, and I guess I’ve improved over my earlier years,” he said. “For it to be called my best year, we have to win state. If that happens, it will be my best year.”

This Thanksgiving, as Woods and the Bearcats prepare to take on Red Oak on Friday afternoon at Allen’s Eagle Stadium in the Class 4A Division I area round, Woods has a reason to be thankful for his ability to play football.

By the way Woods runs all over the field making plays, no one would be able to tell that he was born with a condition that often results in severe disabilities.

Spina bifida is a congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the neural tube very early during an embryo’s development. Some vertebrae are not fully formed and in severe cases, can leave the spinal cord exposed, leading to permanent nerve damage and paralysis.

In mild cases, however, many people go through life with no ill effects and often don’t even know they have the condition. Woods was diagnosed at birth with the condition, but never required surgery.

“It is a disease that told me I couldn’t walk or run or do anything,” Woods said. “Now I’m killing people on the field. All the glory goes to God.”

As defensive captain, Woods, who carries a 3.25 grade-point average, is counted on as an emotional leader.

“He’s a great young man and a great student,” head coach Gary Kinne said. “He’s what you want when you have a son. He’s an unbelievable person and has a great family. I couldn’t say enough great things about him. And on the field, what a warrior. He’s played every snap for the last three years and never comes out. He’s arguably the greatest defensive player to ever wear maroon and white.”

This year, Woods has also been used at times on offense. Against Greenville in his final regular-season game, Woods scored the first points of his career on a 2-point conversion catch.

“He’s a great player, and a great leader as well,” senior quarterback Dru Smith said. “Everybody on the team looks up to him and looks to him for answers on the defensive side of the ball. As a team overall, we look up to him. He’s our leader in the weightroom for sure. He’s a weapon on the field wherever you put him.

“He’s our secret weapon on offense, too. We’d like to keep him a secret a little while longer.”

Woods said as an infant, his mother, Jerline, took him to church every day, and prayed for him.

“Just from that I was healed,” he said. “A miracle.”

The condition that he was born with was never a hindrance to him from sideline to sideline. He continues to make play after play on defense, and likely will continue to do so on Saturdays starting next fall.

“It’s amazing what he can do,” Kinne said. “He has that true inner strength. That guy is just a warrior.”

The name Woods will be a prominent one in Bearcat athletics for the next decade and a half, even as Kahlee moves on to college.

Kahlee is the oldest of seven children — five boys and two girls. The next one up is Konnell, a freshman who plays quarterback and will also wear No. 8. The youngest is three years old.

“There’s four more Woodses coming (in football),” Kahlee Woods said. “And you need to be scared of the girls. They’re bad mama jamas. They’re going to be a part of every sport doing just as well as the boys will. We’re going to be here for a while.”