The athletic and powerful defensive end had been busy with baseball all summer, so former Fort Mill football coach Ed Susi only got him in August right before the season started.
“He was way behind but he was just so athletic,” Susi said. “He did things that you coach against but he ends up making a play. He’s just that athletic. The kid can run.”
K.J. Woods was pursuing baseball that summer, the same dream he chased for much of the first 23 years of his life. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft and spent four years in the Marlins farm system. He didn’t play baseball in 2017, then suited up for an independent league team in New Jersey for six games in 2018.
Now, the dream has changed.
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Woods reached out to Susi over Facebook late last year and asked Susi what he needed to do to walk-on with a college football program. Susi asked his daughter, Madison, who is a student at South Carolina and works in the football program’s recruiting department, for the right phone numbers to pass along to Woods. Susi also got in touch with Bobby Bentley, who shared some numbers of coaches around the state that might be interested in a 23-year old freshman football project.
But Bentley was quickly back in touch with Susi.
“Hey, are you talking about K.J. Woods?” he asked.
“If you’re referring to Kevin than I am. Yeah.”
“Send him my number right away,” Bentley said.
And that was that.
An official visit was set up for Jan. 18, 2019, and Woods is now a South Carolina football player, news first reported by TheBigSpur.com. It’s not yet clear if Woods will enroll at South Carolina this semester, or in the summer. He turns 24 in July.
South Carolina has gone down the road with a former pro baseball player to great success recently.
The Gamecocks brought in Hayden Hurst, a former minor league pitcher whose build at 6-foot-5, 250 compares to Woods. Hurst was 22 when his first college season started, and after three record-setting seasons, he left as a first-round draft pick, going No. 25 to Baltimore.
He set most every tight end receiving record at the school after spending his first season at wide receiver.
Woods will try to do something similar in Columbia. He hit .241 over four seasons of pro baseball, with 30 career home runs. He hit 18 of those during his best year in 2015 with the Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers. He played over 100 games that season, with 18 home runs and 58 RBI.
Woods will trade summer baseball games in Batavia, Jupiter and Kannapolis for adrenaline-packed fall Saturdays in Tuscaloosa, Clemson and Athens.
“Kevin’s a personable, funny, social kid,” said Susi, who was surprised by Woods’ Facebook message. “I had no idea what he wanted. He started asking me football stuff and I said, ‘sure, let’s see what we can do.’”