By Adam Kemp
(TNS) —In the freezing cold January evenings of the year 2000, two Cowboy football players lined up on Lewis Field to practice the intricacies of the Oklahoma State air attack.
Next door, thousands of fans cheered on the Cowboy basketball team, an eventual Elite Eight squad, as they stomped opponent after opponent in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
It was convenient for Rashaun Woods and Aso Pogi to practice on basketball game nights as it was the only time the lights were on at Lewis Field during the winter.
“We were the only knuckleheads out in the cold on that field,” Pogi said. “We just drilled and drilled and drilled until we had it perfect.”
Now on a different field, under different lights, perfection is what the Cowboy duo is striving for again.
As the John Marshall Bears started practice this week, Pogi and Woods have rejoined forces in hopes of seeking out a championship.
This is the start of Woods fifth season at John Marshall. The All-American receiver at OSU was hired in 2013 and has steadily built the Bears back up from an 0-10 record the year before he arrived to a 12-2 record last year and a trip to the Class 3A semifinals.
Now Woods is turning to Pogi to help run what’s sure to be a potent John Marshall offense, led by senior running back Devonte Lee who rumbled for 2,946 yards and 37 touchdowns as a junior.
“Coach Pogi is the man for the job,” Woods said. “When we were in college together he helped me learn the offense. He’s a guy I have complete confidence in, and he’s a good dude. He’s going to help us immensely.”
Pogi remembers long nights in the apartment studying with Woods, his college roommate. The two would review the night before games, studying game plans and breaking down matchups.
“We were both advocates of making sure we both put in a lot of extra time and a lot of extra work,” Pogi said. “That was the difference for both of our careers was the time we put in.”
Woods and Pogi’s college football fortunes turned out much different. Woods went on to become one of the most dominant receivers in college football, racking up 4,414 career yards (seventh best all time) and 42 touchdowns (eighth best all time.)
Pogi took over for an injured Tony Lindsay midway through the 2000 season. He went on to make 17 consecutive starts at quarterback for the Cowboys, but was relieved by Josh Fields in wins against Baylor and Oklahoma to end the 2001 season.
Fields began the 2002 year as the starter, and Pogi transferred to the University of Central Oklahoma.
Since his playing days ended, Pogi has been coaching, most recently as the passing game coordinator at Cache.
He stayed in touch with Woods and watched as he grew John Marshall from a cellar dweller to one of the best in 3A. When Woods came calling for a new offensive coordinator following the season, Pogi was ready.
“We know each other really well from our life experiences as players, but coaching is a different realm,” Pogi said.
“He’s been able to take a program that was not going anywhere and he’s completely turned the program around and that’s really a testament to the time and work he puts in.”
Woods says with Pogi at the helm of the offense, he’s excited to see what the Bears will be able to accomplish. But after falling short of a state championship last season, Woods said he’s not concerning himself with just trophies.
“I never look at it as a final step,” he said. “I just want these guys to be good young men and that’s more of a result and the way we run things.”
He and Pogi are on the same page again.
“A lot of times when you are a former player and you played at a high level, your ego gets in the way of being a really good coach,” Pogi said as he watched players run sprints near the pond on the school’s practice field. “You gotta let that ego go. Nobody cares how good of a player or how bad of a player you were.
“This is about the kids and we just want to do what’s right by them.”