INDIANAPOLIS -- Even Al Woods had to give a chuckle.
The Indianapolis Colts nose tackle laughed because he truly supplies beef on and off the football field.
“Yeah, it’s true. And it’s good beef, too,” he said with a broad smile on his face.
On the football field, Woods is a 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose tackle who helps take up space up front on the defensive line. Off the football field, Woods is a third-generation cattleman.
While many football players like to spend their offseasons in places like Florida, Arizona or California, Woods packs up his house and heads home to Elton, Louisiana, a town of only about 1,130 people, where he works on his family’s farm.
“We’re a close-knit family,” said the 30-year-old Woods, who is an only child. “My grandfather started the farm, my father then took it over, and now I'm part of it with my dad and best friend. I basically live 3.4 miles outside of my hometown where I was born and raised. My wife literally grew up a mile from where we built our house.”
Woods doesn’t stand around and oversee a group of workers on the farm that features around 150 Black Angus, Brangus, and Bremer cattle. He’s very hands on with the work. He gets up at 5 a.m., puts on his jeans, T-shirt, and boots before having a meeting to discuss the day’s plans and then going out and getting dirty in the Louisiana sun. Woods takes care of three fields that require him to check the fence lines, the water, the health of the cattle and also feeding them.
Woods usually stops at around 11 a.m. to take a “break.” That break entails putting on gym clothes and heading over to the local high school where he works out with the sun blazing. He runs, does defensive line drills, runs again before stretching and changing back into his work clothes for the remaining part of the day after squeezing in a little time for lunch.
Running the farm is his offseason work and his future, but football is his main job for now. And that job is to help the Colts improve a defense that finished 30th overall in the NFL last season. Woods, who signed a two-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis in the offseason, only has 3.5 sacks in his career, but he's a space eater who will help stop the run on the defensive line.
“He barely could fit through the door to get into the building,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said about what enticed them about Woods. “He’s got paws on him. I’ve never seen a hand that big. No, seriously, he’s a big, big man and he’s a good athlete for his size. He’s hard to move. When you’ve got guys that size and that strong in the middle and they can command double teams, you’re going to be better and better on defense.”
The second half of Woods’ work day has him using those "paws" Pagano was referring to and pushing bales of hay off the trailer and doing more work in the field before he finishes up by swimming 20 laps and then getting some family time in the pool. The sun is still up on some summer nights when Woods is going to bed so that he can be well-rested to do it all over again the next day.
“I embrace working on the farm,” Woods said. “My family would be OK with anything I do, but at the same time, you want to keep that tradition going. Not working on the farm is not something that had even crossed my mind.
"It’s totally two different worlds. When I’m in the city, I don’t get to see a lot of stuff that I normally get to see back at home. I get to go back to my roots of where I started at, where I started on the farm as a little boy.”