Earlier this season, after a poor performance during which he was booed by fans in the Orange Bowl, David Woodley, the Miami Dolphins' quarterback, was asked if the booing bothered him.
"No way," Woodley answered. "You haven't heard booing until you've been to a game at LSU."
That may help explain the success of Woodley and the Dolphins this year. Written off before the season as a young team with a still-developing quarterback, the Dolphins went 11-4-1, won the AFC East and will be at home for an AFC semifinal game Saturday against the AFC West-champion San Diego Chargers (WRC-TV-4, 5 p.m.).
The Dolphins, favored by three points against San Diego, got here by winning their last four games. They got here with backup quarterback Don Strock rescuing Woodley twice. But mostly they got here because Woodley, an eighth-round draft pick two seasons ago, is beginning to remind people of Bob Griese, the man who led the Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories in the mid-70s.
Like Griese, Woodley appears unflappable on the field. His LSU experience, where he shared the quarterbacking job with a far more popular player and was often booed, may have a lot to do with his ability to handle the pressures of the NFL.
"I've had to learn to just do the best I can and not worry about anything beyond that," Woodley said. "If things don't go well, they don't go well. But if I sit around and worry about it, that isn't going to help."
That is an attitude that Griese has tried to instill in Woodley. Forced into retirement last year by injuries, Griese has worked with the Miami quarterbacks in an unofficial capacity because his contract had an injury clause that commits him to the Dolphins through this season.
"It's been a difficult season for David because everyone expected so much of him as a result of last year," Griese said. "Because he did so well as a rookie, everyone expected him to come in and just tear up the league this year. It just doesn't work that way.
"But you look at the fact that this team was 11-4-1 with a second-year quarterback and you have to give David and Strock and Coach (Don) Shula a lot of credit. Don's really squeezed about everything you can get out of the position."
At 23, Woodley will be the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start a playoff game. If that kind of pressure bothers him, he has not shown it. A decided nonfan of the media, he has patiently dealt with all the interview requests, answering questions politely, if briefly.
In many ways, Woodley fits into the Shula-Griese, all-business, let's-not-get-too-excited-about-anything mold. Does he worry about being taken out early for Strock if things go well against the Chargers?
"I've tried to tell him not to worry about things like that," Griese said. "He has had a tendency to brood over mistakes. I told him that if he plays 15 years he's going to make mistakes so there's no sense being concerned. The most important thing for him now is to learn to react to things. The quicker you can figure out what they're taking away from you and react, the better off you'll be."
Strock, for eight years the reliable relief man, reads defenses much better than Woodley at this stage. When Woodley does get into trouble, it is usually because he is having difficulty recognizing defenses or picking up secondary receivers, the things Strock does well. That is why the combination has been effective.
"It isn't the ideal situation for a team, but I think it's worked fairly well for us," Shula said. "All I've tried to do is get everything I can out of the position with the two guys. We've struggled some with our offense the last few weeks. The defense has carried us. We really need to come alive offensively on Saturday."
Shula would prefer that Woodley, who completed 52.2 percent of his passes this season for 2,470 yards and 12 touchdowns, be the man who directs the offense. But if that doesn't work out, Shula won't hesitate to go to Strock. "I'm not going to panic," he said. "But I won't hesitate, either."
Griese, as he has done all season, will call the plays from the press box and Woodley will have the option to check off, which he has done with increasing confidence.
"We'll give him the plays, but he's the one that has to execute them," Griese said. "He knows that. He understands the pressure. But I think he's handled it well."
Throughout the season, Woodley has given credit to his teammates. "We're a young team," he said. "I think we've even surprised ourselves a little bit by playing this well."
Perhaps the only person David Woodley hasn't surprised is David Woodley.
The Dolphins have not won a playoff game since winning Super Bowl VIII at the end of the 1973 season. Since then, they have lost in the first round to Oakland in 1974, in the wild-card game in 1978 and in the conference semifinals to Pittsburgh in 1979 . . . Both teams are healthy, with no player listed as less than questionable . . . Dan Fouts completed six less passes (360) than Woodley attempted this season . . .The Chargers have three receivers who gained 1,000 yards: Kellen Winslow, Wes Chandler and Charlie Joiner, plus a back who gained 1,000 yards: Chuck Muncie. The Dolphins haven't got a single player over 1,000 yards in either category.