WALK OF FAME: Football opened doors for Wayne Woolard

Published 1:23 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015

In the early 2000s, Wayne “Cutie” Woolard drove to a bank in downtown Washington to cash a check. While waiting for the next available teller, the vice president stepped out of his office and approached the queue.

“’Cutie’ there’s someone here that wants to ask me a question and I want you to hear his reply,” the VP said.

Woolard stepped over to the office without even the slightest idea of who sat inside. “I went to the door and the guy said, ‘I’ve heard different comments about this boy’s ability to play football. I want to hear your comment. Was he worth a darn or not?’” Woolard recalled.

There, at age 93, was a man responsible for 153 of the Washington football team’s wins over the years, Woolard’s former coach, J.G. “Choppy” Wagner. With a smile on his face, he turned to Woolard and said, “Yeah, he was pretty good.”

Today, Woolard, 80, will join Fred and Lynda Watkins, Durwood Dixon and Oscar Smith by earning a place in the Washington Walk of Fame, a deserving honor for a three-sport athlete and former Washington Daily News Most-Valuable-Player recipient.

A 1953 graduate of Washington High School, Woolard played four years of varsity baseball for the Pam Pack and was elected as the team captain his senior season, starting every game at third base. In 1951, he was a member of the conference champion and state runner-up basketball team and the following year as a senior, he started every game for the Pam Pack. But it was on the gridiron where he truly shined.

From 1950-’52, under the tutelage of Coach Wagner, Washington won three-consecutive conference championships, powered by a dominant defense. In 1951, the same year the basketball team went to the title game, the Pam Pack football team finished the regular season undefeated, allowing a total of 40 points through 11 games. It’s the last time the Pam Pack has ever posted an undefeated record, but for unknown reasons, the team chose not to compete in the postseason. Woolard, one of two starting underclassmen, suited up for every game at defensive end or linebacker.

To Coach Wagner, assistant coaches and classmates, Woolard was always known as “Cutie,” a nickname that has stuck with him more than 60 years later. As a ninth grader new to the Washington school system, Woolard went to the old rec center one night.

“There were a bunch of us out there on one Sunday night and this young lady that happened to be the mayor’s daughter was there, one of my classmates, and she made the comment, ‘I was the cutest thing she’s ever seen,’” Woolard recalled. John Gray Blount, a friend and teammate of mine, “overheard it and started calling me ‘Cutie.’ Then, the next thing I know, everyone was calling my ‘Cutie.’ I was away from (the area) for 32 years and when I came back, still no one calls me Wayne.”

Four years later, Blount and Woolard were the only two seniors on the football team following the undefeated season. Fittingly, both were named co-captains and Woolard took home the Most-Valuable-Player Award, as voted on by his teammates.

After college, Woolard spent time at an apprentice school in Newport News, Va., and later joined the Air Force, traveling all over the world. Through it all, he continued to play football.

“I got to play the first American-style football game ever seen in Spain,” he said. “I ended up with the game ball and I still have it.”

Eventually, at age 25, after being scouted by the University of North Carolina, he chose to play football at East Carolina University, though injuries sustained during his sophomore season would end his playing career. He would finish with a degree in business administration.

Looking back, there’s one award Woolard is most proud of, one based on not only athletic performance, but academics as well.

“I got the Kugler Award when I was a graduating seniors, which is awarded to a student that is most outstanding in athletics and academics,” he said. “I keep all of that stuff. That award is sitting on top of my dresser.”