High school football: John Marshall completes turnaround under Rashaun Woods

Jacob Unruh
John Marshall coach Rashaun Woods yells instructions to his team in the fourth quarter during the Class 3A championship Friday. John Marshall won 14-7. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman]

Rashaun Woods just wanted the income at first.

Injuries had just forced the end of his NFL career and he was going through emotions ranging from anger to depression.

Coaching kids was at first just a paycheck. But it's become so much more. He's the mentor and leader of John Marshall, a once-downtrodden program.

As Woods stood on the turf of Stillwater's Pioneer Stadium following Friday night's 14-7 John Marshall victory over Beggs for the Class 3A state championship, his impact as a coach and mentor had reached its peak.

John Marshall had a state championship for the first time in 22 years.

“All of the excuses that some people may make we were able to erase those,” Woods said as he clutched a commemorative championship football. “There's no excuses why John Marshall's kids can't be successful in all walks of life.

“To have this trophy is another thing that shows how (far) this program has come, how (good) of a program it will continue to be.”

Woods started coaching at Star Spencer, helping the Bobcats win a state title as the offensive coordinator in 2009. But then he was told he lacked experience to be a head coach.

So, he returned to Millwood, his alma mater, and helped coach the middle school program.

Then in 2013 he caught his break. John Marshall needed a coach. The Bears were winless the season before.

Under Woods, they went 3-7 that first season. Woods brought in his brothers and other former college and NFL players to help coach.

“That was No. 1, because this is something that I couldn't do by myself,” Woods said. “Being able to put time into John Marshall and the kids, especially a program when you first looked at it wasn't very good at all, to get those guys convinced to come out and then spend this time over the years was the difference.

“Once they got on board, the kids and parents got on board. Next thing you know, here we are.”

John Marshall hasn't had a losing season since, improving each year.

The Bears won grants from the Wes Welker Foundation twice in a summer 7-on-7 tournament, resulting in new helmets for every player.

Alumni were helping. Woods said a big boost was provided by Terry Harris, who helps maintain the practice field and provide food to the players.

Things were quickly changing.

“Those kind of people willing to help a program like John Marshall is why we're here and able to level the playing field around the state,” Woods said. “For us to do that and have a chance is big time.”

Woods has helped develop multiple Division I players, including current star Devonte Lee, a Nevada commitment.

Lee, as he surveyed the on-field celebration Friday, was moved with what he saw.

“You can just tell the love,” Lee said. “It's been a crazy change, just for the simple fact of the coaches. Since they came we realized that the coaches have the master plan and we have people that listen.

“It's just great, the whole program. I wouldn't want to be a part of anything else.”