Every coach searches for a player who has that intangible combination of brawn, brains and balance, and Joe Restic thinks he's found that elusive blend in sophomore linebacker Bob Woolway.
The Monday before the Columbia game, Woolway was informed he would start alongside senior Craig Beling, and last Saturday he justified the starting role with a bravura performance in which he accounted for ten unassisted tackles and threw in two quarterback sacks as a lagniappe.
"I was so pleased with his play," Restic said afterwards,"I think he's going to be a great linebacker. He's smart, has great quickness, and doesn't overreact."
Part of Woolway's success in his Harvard varsity debut is explained by his blue blood football breeding. Woolway played linebacker for four years on parochial powerhouse Loyola High School back home in Los Angeles. In 1975, Loyola was polled the number one high school football team in the entire country.
That year Loyola went 14-0 and won the California Interscholastic Federation League title before a crowd of 20,000 in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Woolway attributes Loyola's remarkable success to rigid training regimen. After a season that didn't end until December 19, Woolway began lifting weights in February to prepare for spring practice and continued to pump iron all summer long. And that's brawn.
"Believe it or not," Woolway recalls, "I had to get my head shaved four years in a row for high school football. We brought beds to school in the pre-season and would camp in so we could practice three times a day."
Woolway ultimately enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere around Harvard freshman football and found it a worthwile prerequisite for the varsity but notes, "My first game here I was almost disappointed in the football. I knew it was going to be low key, but it was a shock considering what I was used to."
Before graduating, Woolway was recruited by Colorado, Stanford, Santa Clara, Princeton and Harvard. He originally signed a letter of intent to play for Santa Clara and received a full scholarship. In April, however, he visited Cambridge, decided it was more to his liking, and passed up the free ride at Santa Clara. "I just really didn't want to get involved in a high-power football-factory type situation," Woolway said. "I take football seriously. It's just that there are other things besides football."
Woolway credits his transormation into one of the pillars of the Crimson defense to the tutelage of fellow linebacker Beling and new linebacker coach Alex Nahigan. Nahigan was hired over the summer principally as Harvard's baseball coach. "He's been the main difference," Woolway says. "We probably work harder in practice than anyone on the field and Nahigan's not afraid to yell at us."
Linebacker is also one of the most cerebral positions in football. "You're in charge of the defensive signals," explains Woolway, "and you've got to be thinking out there." And that's brains.
Woolway considers his best asset as a player to be his mobility, which was graphically illustrated by his derring-do tackles on Saturday. "You just can't stop until the whistle blows," he says. And that's balance.
And when it comes to playing linebacker, brawn, brains and balance are the same thing in California or in Cambridge.