By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Jason Woodman’s coaching career has taken him all over.
“I’ve been in Clifton Stadium on a Monday night in Death Valley on national television,” he said. “I’ve been to Knoxville, Tenn., listening ‘Rocky Top.’ I’ve been to Tuscaloosa and heard ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ I’ve been to Baton Rouge where ‘Calling Baton Rouge’ played pre-game, and the ground shook and we beat Mississippi. I’ve been in the Swamp. I’ve been in Doak Campbell Stadium and seen the chomp.”
Now, the North Marion High School graduate is back as the head football coach at Fairmont State University.
As he stood before donors at a meet-and-greet fundraiser at Westchester Village on Friday night, he paused and held back emotions football coaches rarely show, especially in public.
“But come Sept 5, when we walk out of the locker room and we hear the National Anthem and I see our players,” Woodman said. “That’s going to be one of the proudest days of my life.”
Roughly 120 individuals, who attended the event and in support of Woodman, sprang to their feet with applause.
With their help, Fairmont State raised about $10,000 Friday evening, including $500 via a live auction to decide who would eat dinner with Woodman and his wife, Kari. Proceeds from the event will go toward everything from helmets and pads to scholarships.
“We have a lot of need, especially in our situation where we are changing a lot of things,” Woodman said in an interview. “It’s going to be spread out and used for a lot of different things.”
Before he got the job at Fairmont State, Woodman coached at Louisiana State University, Florida State, California University (Pa.), Concord and most recently Bowie State, where his offense averaged more than 350 yards per game. But at the receptions, he called the Fairmont State position “the job I was made to do.”
He said Fairmont State is going to hold itself to Division I standards, something that is only possible with help from locals.
“I’ve said it 100 times. We’re only going to be as good as the support in the community is,” he said. “It’s the way small colleges operate. You need support from the community to fund outside of what you’re allowed by the school, which isn’t going to be enough.”
Jimmy Sears, who is the general manager at Westchester Village, reached out to Woodman several months ago and offered to organize the meet-and-greet. He had set up a similar event when basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun joined Fairmont State and thought it would be a good idea for the football team as well.
Sears said he invited friends from the business community and had no problem getting people to attend.
“People in Fairmont are so generous,” Sears said. “They’re willing to give anything that they can give. Our economy is not the greatest thing in the world, but they still continue to give. And that’s what Fairmont is about.”
At the event, Woodman introduced his coaching staff and discussed his plans for the upcoming season. While he downplayed expectations for his first season, Sears and others already have their hopes.
Sears: “Hopefully in the next years, he’s going to build a dynasty at Fairmont State to take us back to where we always should have been.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @mikedefabotwv.