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Woodson to head west with verbal commitment to Arizona

Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Thomas Woodson, at left, tries to break free from the pursuit of a Latrobe defender during Gateway’s victory over the Wildcats last September.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 8:26 a.m.

Thomas Woodson relished the opportunity to run the same offense in college that he does at Gateway, so the dual-threat quarterback did what he does best: read the situation and decide where to run.

In this case, it's all the way to Arizona.

Woodson made a verbal commitment to Arizona on Sunday night, choosing the Wildcats over a scholarship offer from Bowling Green. Ohio, Purdue and Toledo were showing in- terest in the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder.

"They were the first team to give me a chance," Woodson said of Rich Rodriguez and his staff, primarily recruiter Tony Gibson. "I thought, ‘Why not pull the trigger on a coaching staff that has followed me since I started playing varsity ball?' It was just the feeling I have about Arizona and the coaching staff."

Woodson passed for 1,184 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 314 yards and three scores on 70 carries last season. His top performance came against Latrobe, when he passed for 334 yards. As a sophomore, Woodson passed for 1,362 yards and ran for 468 yards out of a read-option offense.

"Their offense is the same I run in high school. It'll be great," Woodson said. "Our offense is run exactly like theirs, with the quarterback reading the defensive end. It'll be great to do at the college level what I've been doing for three years now."

Woodson becomes the third WPIAL star to pick Arizona, which has a staff with a heavy western Pennsylvania influence. Chartiers Valley wide receiver Wayne Capers and Upper St. Clair linebacker Dakota Conwell signed with Arizona in February.

"It's nice knowing those guys," said Woodson, who played with them on the Western PA Swag seven-on-seven team last summer. "They're great people and great athletes, so it will be nice to have them there when I get there."

New England Patriots all-pro Rob Gronkowski, who starred as a senior at Woodland Hills in 2006, played his college football at the University of Arizona.

As a true freshman in 2007, Gronkowski recorded 28 receptions for 525 yards and six touchdowns. He earned several freshman All-American and All-PAC 10 honors.

They were the type of first-year accomplishments Woodson hopes he's in a position to achieve.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for him," Gateway head football coach Terry Smith said.

"He has the chance to play BCS-caliber football in the biggest conference in the country. He will have the chance to compete early. We're happy for him that he can put that decision behind him and focus on having a great senior year."

Woodson is the second student-athlete from the Gateway Class of 2013 to verbally commit to a Division I football program

Last month, Gators two-way starter Jaymar Parrish chose to continue his education and athletic pursuits at Pitt.

From 2004 to 2011, 21 Gateway football players signed on to play at Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

Woodson would be the first Gators player to sign with a Pac 12 school.

National Letter of Intent signing day is the first Wednesday in February. It is the first day all verbal commitments can become finalized and binding.

Times Express sports editor Michael Love contributed to this report.

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