Paul Woodside is a strange fellow. Here he is blasting his new wave music, his field goals and his funky ways all around West Virginia. All this, in the place they call Almost Heaven.
Yet tradition, please note, warns us that football kickers are a loony lot. Woodside doesn't want to mess with tradition.
"I'm kind of hyper," said the sophomore kicker for West Virginia University.
He is also very good. In six games this season, he has kicked 16 field goals in 18 attempts and 14 of 15 extra points. The result places him at Almost Heaven on America's stat sheet: second in the nation in field goals per game (2.67), third in points scored (10.3).
Still, it is only natural that when his No. 13-ranked team plays host to No. 9 Penn State Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Mountaineer Field in a matchup of teams with 5-1 records, vested vision likely will focus on Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge or on West Virginia quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who will play against the school he left two years ago.
Only tunnel vision will focus on the sideshow: the wonderfully wacky Woodside. In self-analysis, he says, "I go against the social norm. It's not like I've lost everything. I guess my music is a little weird."
When he bloodlets the air of Almost Heaven with his new wave favorite -- a group called "Madness" -- it is said they hear his stereo in South Carolina. Punter Tom Gandee, who has been Woodside's roommate for two years now, tells the story that at a semiformal team party last year, Woodside bought his outfit for $2.50 at the Salvation Army.
"It was some blue pin-striped thing," says Gandee. "The pants were two sizes too big. He wore punk sunglasses and black tennis shoes."
Gandee adds, "Everyone else rented tuxedos."
Two years ago, Woodside was kicking field goals successfully from as far as 50 yards and was punting his way onto the all-district team at Falls Church (Va.) High School. Woodside was intense then, according to his Falls Church coach, Al Fish. A hard worker.
"He kicked the footballs so hard and so much," recalls Fish, "that he broke their bladders." Fish said Woodside confined his craziness to sending his coach notes about who should play on the special teams. "No player ever did anything like that before," Fish says.
Then, Woodside headed for West Virginia. At first he did not get a scholarship. But West Virginia Coach Don Nehlen says "walk-on" is a misleading term. "He was an invited walk-on," the coach amends.
For the first eight games of last year, Woodside's sole responsibility was kickoffs. When Murat Tercan, the Mountaineers' field goal kicker, suffered an injury in the eighth week, Woodside took over for him, too.
He finished last season with grand statistics and in grand style. He made eight of 12 field goals, including a record four in the 26-6 Peach Bowl win over Florida. "He came on like gangbusters," Nehlen says.
The coach adds, "The only problem is he never wants to stop kicking. I say, 'Paul, save some for Saturday.' "
Not only has Woodside saved some for Saturdays in 1982, he has saved Saturdays for these meteoric Mountaineers. There were his four field goals in the 19-18 win over Maryland; there were his three field goals in the wind in the 16-6 victory over Virginia Tech last week; and there was his streak of 15 straight field goals (including his final four of 1981) that was one short of the NCAA record. Simply, Woodside has been magnificent.
But, oh, how there was shock after his miss on the attempt at 16 straight. Woodside's 52-yard field goal try with seven seconds left skimmed the crossbar and fell short in the 16-13 loss at Pitt.
You would think such a significant miss would send a sophomore shrinking to his knees. Not Woodside. Gandee says Woodside wasn't upset at all. Not even one crossbar's worth. "We just went out dancing at some disco that night," says Gandee. "He forgot about it."