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Woody front and center for Patriots

Grier went to work, got his man

Pats switch baffling to ESPN

Katzenmoyer receives the call

Patriots find a solution in Faulk

Florida's George is seen as safety valve

BC's Cloud and Brzezinski join in on the fun

Fullback Konrad rewarded for being patient

McNabb leads Big East band

Williams quickly gets over initial shock

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Damien Woody
The Patriots hope Damien Woody, shown here tackling Virginia Tech's Chad Beasley last season, can help improve their offensive line. (AP Photo)

Woody is front and center

Patriots seal deal with Seattle, move up and grab former BC standout 17th

By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff, 04/18/99

FOXBOROUGH - There were two interesting reactions from the Patriots season ticket-holders who dished out $25 for the draft party yesterday at the Foxboro Entertainment Complex.

When ESPN announced the Patriots had made a deal, there was applause. When it announced they had moved from their 20th spot to Seattle's 17th to select center Damien Woody of Boston College, there was a collective sigh.

The fans, who had heard about possible deals for Ricky Williams and Edgerrin James, expected a little more out of a trade that sent the 20th, 82d, and 191st picks for a player they thought would be available at 20 anyway.

The Patriots didn't wow anyone with that pick, although taking Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer 28th quickly revived fan interest.

Woody, a 6-foot-3-inch, 319-pounder from Beaverdam, Va., was the highest-rated center in the draft, and among the top four linemen, but if the Patriots were going to move up to Seattle's spot, why not go with North Carolina defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban? Why not stay at 20 and take Wisconsin giant Aaron Gibson? In the end, the Patriots thought the Giants would take Woody at 19, so they gave up picks for a player they desperately wanted.

When reached last night, sources from the Raiders (picking 18th) and Giants said they had no interest in Woody.

''The one defensive lineman we liked all along was Anthony McFarland but we couldn't get to him,'' said Patriots coach Pete Carroll of the former LSU star taken 15th by Tampa Bay.

''We're very pleased,'' Carroll said. ''We love the fact we got the center we wanted. He's a unique athlete. We knew there was conversation about other teams taking him so we gave up a few picks to move up. We don't care about that because we got the guy we wanted.''

Woody, the first center taken in the first round since Michigan's Steve Everitt by the Browns in 1992, will be the heir apparent to Dave Wohlabaugh, who signed a seven-year, $26.25 million free agent deal with expansion Cleveland, the richest pact ever for a center.

''I'm a little overwhelmed,'' said Woody, who was at a family barbecue. ''I saw it on TV first and after that the Patriots called me. I'm relieved. When I heard that it was a trade, I was a little anxious because I figured why would they be moving up when the two running backs were already gone?''

When his family heard his name called, the party erupted.

''It was like an earthquake,'' said Woody.

The Boston College star elected not to return to The Heights for one more year.

BC coach Tom O'Brien said of Woody's selection, ''His potential is unlimited, but now he has to produce. He has the ability.''

But O'Brien also was forthcoming about Woody's shortcomings.

''He needs to improve his work ethic,'' O'Brien said. ''He's got some growing up to do, but there's no question he can do the job if he wants to.''

Woody said he met with Carroll in Foxborough a few weeks ago and convinced the coach that despite being a junior, he was mature enough to handle being a starter in the pros.

''I think it was the right decision for me,'' said Woody. ''I think I had accomplished enough at BC.''

So much for the Heath Irwin era at center.

The Patriots, who tendered Irwin at the highest offer ($934,000), had told the world he was Wohlabaugh's replacement. But now that's uncertain.

''It's not a surprise,'' said Irwin. ''I've been hearing about it for a while now. It's been in the papers. I was looking forward to playing center and I still may. Hopefully I can fit in, if not at center, then someplace else. I'll play anywhere on the field.''

Irwin said he was never told by the coaching staff he was the new center, but had read comments by Carroll indicating such. Despite what it might mean for him, Irwin said of Woody, ''He's a big kid who can really move. He'll have to learn the offense and his head will be swimming with the information he'll have to absorb, but I'm sure he'll be quite a player.''

Carroll said Irwin was still the center, but that he hoped Woody would take the job. ''He has to earn it, though,'' said Carroll, who indicated Irwin would eventually move to guard.

Woody thinks he's equally effective protecting the passer and run blocking, but he brings ''size and agility'' to the position. Despite being in the area, he said he has never attended a Patriots game, but said of the team, ''They're a good, young team with good, young talent. It's exciting. They have a great quarterback in Drew Bledsoe and he needs to be protected.''

Michael Vega and Mark Blaudschun of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 04/18/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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