Cornerback Wood set to join Notre Dame football castoffs at Miami of Ohio
As of late Friday night, a sort of self-imposed deadline, Lo Wood wasn’t exactly sure where the next chapter of his football career would unfold.
He just knew it wasn’t going to be a U-turn back to Notre Dame.
On Wednesday night, he decided to follow his heart, and on Thursday morning the 5-foot-11, 194-pound cornerback from Apopka, Fla., announced he will play out his final season at Miami (Ohio) University, choosing the tradition-laden program that went 0-12 last season over a handful of other options.
The hook was a chance to play for new RedHawks coach Chuck Martin, most recently the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame but who coached defensive backs for the Irish when Wood first showed up at ND as an early enrollee in January of 2010.
“It was all about coach Martin and opportunity,” said Wood’s father, Lo Wood Sr. “Lo’s always liked and respected coach Martin. Lo accomplished his goal of reality, and that was getting a Notre Dame degree. Now it becomes about going after his dream, and that’s getting a chance to play to see if he can take his game to the NFL.”
Wood had asked for and been granted his release to do a grad school-style transfer more than a month ago. He’ll arrive on the Oxford, Ohio, campus on Jan. 26. The career reserve for the Irish joins fellow Irish castoffs, quarterback Andrew Hendrix and tight end Alex Welch at Miami, where the pair will also spend their fifth year of eligibility.
The NCAA rule regarding grad school transfers waives the typical one-year sitting-out period.
The Irish had 10 players with fifth-year options from the 2010 recruiting class. Less than half are expected to return to ND to play in 2014. Nose guard Louis Nix is the only one among them who has entered his name in the 2014 NFL Draft, joining a trio of Irish true juniors — Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas and George Atkinson III.
Wood was angling for a starting spot opposite Bennett Jackson heading into the 2012 season, when he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in a non-contact drill during an Aug. 20 practice.
True freshman KeiVarae Russell ended up taking Wood’s place during ND’s run to the BCS National Championship Game. When Wood returned from the injury, he not only couldn’t overtake Russell in preseason camp, but two freshmen — Cole Luke and Devin Butler — leapfrogged him on the depth chart.
Wood ended up playing in 11 games for the Irish in 2013 in a reserve role and on special teams. He collected 10 tackles, including one for a loss. He played in 10 games in 2011, with six tackles and an interception, and 11 games in 2010, garnering four tackles.
Rise and Shrine
Four members of the Notre Dame football team were selected to play in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game, a senior showcase for second-tier NFL prospects.
Only three, though, are expected to play.
Wide receiver TJ Jones, generally perceived as the top pro prospect among the four, will miss the game with a shoulder injury that he suffered then played with in ND’s 29-16 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers, Dec. 28 in New York.
Quarterback Tommy Rees, cornerback Bennett Jackson and outside linebacker Prince Shembo are all members of the West squad, to be coached by former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel. Former Irish assistant coach Bernie Parmalee is among the West’s assistant coaches.
The game is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. NFL Network will televise it.
*Former Irish defensive lineman Kona Schwenke recorded two tackles, one for loss, while playing for the losing National team in the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl Game, last Saturday in Charleston, S.C.
The game showcased senior NFL Draft hopefuls who are projected as late-round selections or undrafted free agents.
The American team defeated the National team, 20-3, before 5,135 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Dan Fox says there never was any consideration to the other option, that being not pursuing a professional football career.
“I never really thought I wouldn’t try,” said the now-former ND inside linebacker, who exhausted his eligibility following the 2013 season. “I played so much at Notre Dame ... and I feel that I really can succeed at the next level too.”
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound product of Rocky River, Ohio, is training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He signed with agent Andy Simms of PlayersRep.
Fox, who led the Irish in tackles last season with 95, underwent minor knee surgery on Dec. 31 in South Bend, but says he’s “full-go” now.
“It was pretty minor,” Fox said. “It just kind of was bothering me all season so it feels really good to get it fixed up.”
Fox had been hoping for an invite to the NFL Combine, but because he has not yet received one, he is planning on showing his skills at ND’s Pro Day, which he says will be held in March, although he did not know an exact date.
“You get a lot of information from different people, but no one really knows until draft day what’s going on,” Fox said. “The best thing you can do is just train hard, put yourself in the best position for the draft.
“I’m going to train hard. I’m going to run fast. I think I’m going to be up there as far as my time goes with the best linebackers in the country. I’m excited.”
Staff writer Bob Wieneke contributed to this story.