Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer 336d

Last year's leader in TD passes was ... Logan Woodside?

College Football, Toledo Rockets

TOLEDO, Ohio -- The best Logan Woodside recruiting story happened at the only place it could: a camp.

Overlooked and underused early in his high school career, Woodside barnstormed the camp circuit. If college coaches gathered within driving distance of his Kentucky home, he went, usually alongside his mom, Emily Cleveland, and his grandmother.

In April 2012, Woodside drove to a camp in Cincinnati. He earned co-MVP honors with another quarterback, Malik Zaire, the Notre Dame recruit rated by ESPN as the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback.

"They only had one trophy, and I took the trophy," Woodside said. "I went up to him and said, 'Congrats, bro. Where you going to school? You have any offers?' And he's like, 'I'm going to Notre Dame. I've got 35 offers. What about you?'

"I'm like, 'I've got no offers. I'll give you this trophy if you give me an offer.'"

Zaire laughed. He kept his offers. Woodside kept the trophy.

It took more camps for Woodside to collect his scholarship offers, including one from Toledo, which he accepted. It took two high school stops for him to become a starting quarterback. It took three quarterback competitions for him to become Toledo's starter.

"I don't think anybody ever wanted me to succeed at quarterback," Woodside said, his lips forming a half-smile.

The rare dose of hyperbole from the even-keeled Woodside is forgivable. Years of being told "no" built scar tissue -- specifically, a giant chip on the shoulder. Last season, Woodside showed exactly what that shoulder could do: 45 touchdown passes, most in the FBS and 16 clear of Toledo's record, along with 4,129 passing yards, a 69.1 completion percentage and a rating of 183.3, which ranked second nationally.

He's the best quarterback most people don't know, which is nothing new.

"He has been self-made in a lot of ways," Toledo coach Jason Candle said, "by great determination and grit. That's his edge."

When Woodside was 5 or 6, he told his dad that he wanted to play in the NFL, a standard dream for boys his age. Jason Woodside didn't brush it off. Jason had played safety at Eastern Kentucky and watched several teammates reach the NFL. He presented "a road map" for his son, highlighted by three requirements: natural athleticism, luck and hard work. He didn't know that the second element, luck, would often elude Logan.

Jason said something else, too.

"He told me, 'You've got it in you. Just never let anybody tell you [that] you can't do something,'" Logan said. "I've carried that through my whole life."

Working hard was the easy part. At night, he jumped rope and sprinted the hill next to his mom and stepdad's house with a parachute strapped to his back. He took a PassBack football -- one end is chopped off and rounded, so it can bounce back to the thrower -- and peppered the side of the house. When he went home this summer, the old ladies who live in the neighborhood reminded him about that sound.

"He'd beat the wall to death," Jason said. "From daylight to dark, all you could hear is, 'thump, thump, thump.'"

Logan started playing quarterback in third grade and continued through middle school. He attended Anderson County High School in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, where his dad had played, but couldn't claim the starting job.

His freshman season passed. Then his sophomore season, the one that puts quarterbacks on the college radar, came and went. He was stuck as the JV QB. Woodside transferred to Franklin County High School, near his mom and stepdad. He studied the playbook before enrolling and won the job in weeks. He led Franklin to 11 straight wins, including a 56-24 spanking of Anderson in the district championship. But the college coaches stayed away.

"He was relatively unheard of," Franklin County coach Chris Tracy said.

Weeks after the Cincinnati camp, Woodside and his mom set out for Northwestern's camp. As they passed Louisville, Woodside learned that hundreds of quarterbacks would be there. How would he, with zero offers, get noticed? He told his mom to turn back.

"No," she said. "We'll be all right. You'll be all right. Just go."

Scott Isphording, Toledo's quarterbacks coach, spotted Woodside at Northwestern. Later that June, a group of Toledo coaches, including head coach Matt Campbell, saw Woodside at Ohio State's camp.

"We were on, like, Field 4, they've got a million kids there, and we were watching and just really enamored by Logan," Campbell said. "I was so blown away by his athleticism, watching him throw. To tell you we knew a lot about him before that camp would be false."

Finally, offers arrived: Troy, Western Kentucky, some Division II schools. A week after the Ohio State camp, Woodside departed for Western Kentucky, ready to commit. On the drive, his phone rang. It was Campbell, extending an offer.

Woodside drove to Toledo the next day and committed on the spot.

"Really, I had no idea what I was doing," he said. "I was just excited."

So excited that he graduated high school early and became one of Toledo's first midyear enrollees. That spring, Woodside earned the backup quarterback job. When starter Terrance Owens injured his knee in Week 3, Woodside came in and threw an 81-yard touchdown pass as Toledo beat Eastern Washington. The following week, he started at Central Michigan. Toledo won again.

He didn't play much more that season, but he earned a chance to compete for the starting job. Woodside and Phillip Ely, a transfer from Alabama, paced one another throughout the summer before Ely inched ahead.

Once again, a September injury -- Ely tore his ACL against Missouri -- thrust Woodside into action. In his first start, at Cincinnati, he fired three touchdowns and completed 67.5 percent of his passes. From then on, Toledo went 9-4, and Woodside had five multi-touchdown games.

"The emotion of, 'A month ago, I'm not good enough, and now I'm the guy,' he handled that really, really well," said Candle, then Toledo's offensive coordinator.

Despite Woodside's success in 2014, the competition reopened the following spring. Ely was coming off knee and shoulder surgeries, but the coaches wanted to see what he had left. Again, the two competed. Again, Ely was a smidge better.

Campbell calls it the hardest decision of his career. He called other coaches, asking for advice on how to break the bad news to Woodside.

There was a twist, too. The coaches wanted Woodside to redshirt. Barring another Ely injury, he would go from 10 starts to zero snaps.

"You're not going to understand this," Campbell told Woodside, "but at some point, you're going to be really grateful that this happened, and you're going to understand why it happened, as long as you're willing to stick with us."

Another no. Another blow.

"Devastating," Woodside said. "The second time, man, that was really hard on me."

At first, Woodside sulked. Always a strong student, he slacked off in classes. His confidence waned.

As his new reality set in, he embraced a new role: scout team quarterback. He wanted Toledo's defense to believe it wouldn't face a better quarterback than the one it saw in practice. He built rapport with young receivers such as Cody Thompson, who eventually became his favorite target. On game days, Woodside wore a headset, heard the playcalls and talked to Ely between series. Toledo went 10-2.

"He found ways to impact our football team other than being the starting quarterback," Candle said.

"A blessing in disguise," Woodside said.

In December, Campbell left to become the head coach at Iowa State, and Toledo promoted Candle. Ely also moved on, seemingly clearing the way.

But after the bowl game, the coaches told Woodside a competition would resume that spring.

"I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? What else do I have to do?'" he said.

That spring, he left no doubt.

"I flat-out won the starting job," he said.

When the season began, Woodside flat-out dominated: three or more touchdown passes in every regular-season game, including four or more in six contests; 24 completions of 40 yards or longer; 10 games with one or zero interceptions; nine games with 23 or more completions.

Asked if he saw it coming, Candle paused.

"Three years ago," he said. "When he was told he wasn't going to be the quarterback, I knew that if he got through this, the product on the back end was going to be really special."

Woodside recently read an story about Tom Brady turning 40. It includes former Patriots backup Matt Cassel describing how Brady refused to give up a single practice rep.

"You never want to see anybody else doing your job," Woodside said. "I really look up to Tom Brady. That's a guy who just earned everything he got."

Woodside finally earned what he wanted, but there's no letup. He completed his marketing degree in December and takes only online graduate classes, so his days are spent in Toledo's film room, the weight room and coaches' meetings.

"As long as the coaches are there, he's there," Thompson said.

Candle says Woodside calls about one-third of Toledo's plays from the line. He checks runs to passes and passes to runs, and he changes protections. The details mean everything.

"He might throw an 18-yard comeback to the field and put it on the guy's inside number instead of outside number," offensive coordinator Brian Wright said. "Logan's the guy that's going to analyze that and want to be even better at that completion."

Wyoming's Josh Allen is the Group of 5 quarterback generating NFL buzz, but Candle said pro teams are showing interest in the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Woodside, who has trained with former pros Jeff Garcia and Bruce Gradkowski, the former Toledo star whose touchdown record Woodside broke last fall.

In June, Woodside traveled to a camp, this time the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, and he served as a counselor alongside other accomplished college quarterbacks.

"It's so much fun to watch this guy, knowing the hard times he had to go through," Campbell said. "Not only did the story end up the right way, but all the credit for why the story ends up the right way is how he handled the adversity that came at him."

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