Calvin Woodland is a proud, determined man. He has been spat at, ridiculed, beaten up and last August was shot in the kneecap. But nothing, "nothing," says the 37-year-old former professional boxer, will stop him from helping the youth in his Southeast neighborhood where he has lived for 15 years.
For 11 of those 15 years Woodland, with the help of several of the city's businesses, has sponsored football teams for players aged 7-17. This year, the funds ran out and Woodland had to tell more than 200 youths that there would be no teams this year.
"I'm hurt. This is not a fly-by-night operation," said Woodland. "We work year round with these kids. I visit each one of my kids at school to make sure he's doing what he's supposed to do. I tell you this and you can check, since we have stressed 'good grades or no play,' we haven't had one school dropout."
Woodland is no braggart. Friends said more than 50 or so former Woodland Raiders players have gone on to high school and college teams.
Mike Martin (Eastern-Illinois), William Mayo (McKinley-Morris Brown), Robert Christian (Ballou-Morgan State) and William Bowie (Carroll-Morgan State) are a few of Woodland's former players who took his advice to "use your God-given athletic ability as a short ride to something better."
"We've got a couple of Raiders coming out of college this year so we've been around a long time," said Woodland. "They always come back and see how the young kids are doing and tell them the same things I used to say to them when they were young. What can they say this year? We have no team."
Despite several burglaries in the last few years, Woodland managed to scrape up enough funds to outfit his teams with good equipment and even make a trip or two each year to give his players some exposure. $"We went to Pittsburgh last year with 80 players and cheerleaders," said Woodland, who won 31 of his 33 fights as junior lightweight before retiring. "I still owe money from that trip as well as for equipment I purchased (about $3,000). I plan to pay every dime of it, though.
"Someone has to do something for the kids who have no one to go to. Jesse Jackson and Rev. (Walter) Fauntroy are fighting wars overseas when they should start here. These kids here and in other so-called ghettos could use a little assistance too."
Over the years Woodland has sponsored a yearly banquet for his athletes, a holiday "Olympics" (July 4) and dozens of other affairs such as talent shows, fashion shows and plays to entertain the youth.
"There are no more gang fights out here. The kids have pitched in to clean the streets of debris and they have done all kinds of chores for the elderly," Woodland said.
"When I got shot, arguing with some dope dealers, the kids came to my aid," he said, "My 14-year-old was shot behind the ear. That was a bad time. But there is no more dope out here and the kids look at their neighborhood with more pride."
At Woodland's last banquet, dozens of Interhigh League football players were in attendance. Many spoke of Woodland's dedication and time he spent working with them.
"He really did wonders for me," said Martin, who helped Eastern win back-to-back league championships in 1977-78. "He's a good man."
Woodland, who broke his ankle scuffling with an outsider at Kramer Junior High where he was employed by the D.C. Public School Security Office, doesn't know what will happen to his once popular Raiders football teams but is determined to find a solution to keep the kids active.
"We lost three games in 10 years against the Boys Club teams and the other little league recreation teams in the area," said Woodland, "but that is irrelevant. My assistant Anthony Hook and I don't want to see the kids go down the drain.
"We tell our kids we got a Dr. J. What we need are some more medical doctors," said Woodland. "We got a guy who used to play for us who's now in medical school. How about that?
"When I started a lot of doors were open, now they're closed for some reasons. I don't usually beg for anything but I might have to. It may be too late to have a football team but I'm going to have some kind of athletic program out here, somehow, some way."