Starting a football program is a growth process, and growth takes patience and time. Unfortunately, in the world of athletics patience and time aren't ideas that fans like to discuss or brag about. While talk of future success can be exciting and spawns hope, the majority of athletics deals in the `here and now.' For Lamar fans, as with all fans, the idea of a brighter tomorrow is a constant, but due to the time and patience put in by fifth-year head coach Ray Woodard, and his staff, LU fans are beginning to see the growth of Lamar's football program.
Entering only its fourth season of competition since being resurrected, not many outside of Beaumont put high expectations on the 2013 season. Beginning almost immediately, the Cardinals set out to prove the naysayers wrong. Lamar tied a record for wins since bringing back the program, and by year's end had set or tied more than 20 team and individual records. The record-setting pace began in the season opener as the Cards set seven school standards. As the season continued, new records fell almost on a weekly basis.
In addition to all the records that were being set fans could even look to the Lamar setbacks to see the obvious growth of the program. Lamar traveled to Ruston, La. to face FBS foe Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs were coming off a campaign that saw them climb as high as18th in the polls the year before, but escaped the game with only a 13-point victory. The Bulldogs scored a late touchdown to build the double-digit lead, and Lamar left 14 points on the field against the highly favored Bulldogs.
If a near miss against an FBS opponent wasn't enough evidence, then Lamar's conference opener at No. 2 Sam Houston State should've wiped away all doubt as the Cards held the two-time national runners-up to 14 points. Lamar also pushed No. 20 Central Arkansas and No. 6 McNeese State to the final possession of the game before the outcome was decided.
The 2013 season wasn't just defined by the near misses. It was also highlighted by thrilling victories, most notable the last second win over rival Stephen F. Austin. In just four short years Woodard's troops have flipped the series on the rival Lumberjacks. In the inaugural season, Lamar dropped a 72-3 decision to SFA only to watch the margin of victory noticeably decline each year after culminating in a 41-yard field goal from freshman Alex Ball to secure a one-point victory.
By season's end, LU fans had watched quarterback Caleb Berry record the best season by a Lamar quarterback in school history while running back Kade Harrington set a new freshman rushing record. Harrington also highlighted the All-Southland Conference teams earning 2013 Freshman of the Year honors.
Harrington led a list of Cardinals that set another record under Woodard's direction last season. The 2013 version of the Cardinals set a school record for number of players named all-conference (10) in the same season, including the first three first-team selections since the return of the program. In addition to the all-conference selections, Jesse Dickson and Chris Maikranz became the school's first two All-America selections since the program's resurrection.
All told, Woodard has produced 26 All-SLC selections, including three first-team players, four All-Americans, one Freshman All-America, one CFPA National Punter Returner of the Year, one SLC Newcomer of the Year, one league freshman of the year and a conference student-athlete of the year.
Woodard's troops have made a habit of rewriting the LU record books during his short time in Beaumont. In 2011, the Cardinals set seven individual and six team records.
The 2011 season marked the first year Lamar was able to compete as a full member of the Southland Conference and Woodard guided the Cardinals to a pair of conference road wins on their way to a 4-7 overall record and a 2-5 league mark.
Lamar made its historic return to the gridiron in 2010. Not only did the Cardinals take the field for the first time since 1989, but they turned a lot of heads with their immediate success. In their very first game - at McNeese State on Sept. 4 - Lamar set a school record with 429 passing yards. McNeese State was ranked 11th in the nation when the Cardinals put a scare into the Cowboys before falling 30-27 in the season opener for both teams. A week later, playing its home opener in front of a red-clad crowd of 16,600, Lamar earned its first victory in over two decades by a 21-14 margin over Webber International.
Woodard guided the Cardinals to a 5-6 overall record that season, which included a 4-2 mark in newly refurbished Provost Umphrey Stadium while playing in front of capacity crowds in their first four home games. The overall record does not begin to tell the story of the renewed excitement and school pride that were returned to the Beaumont campus.
Although the Cardinals were not eligible for the Southland Conference championship during the 2010 season, the excitement generated by Lamar's resurrection of the football program was reflected in the fact Woodard was one of five finalists voted for the Southeast Texas Press Club's 2010 Newsmaker of the Year Award.
Woodard was named the eighth football coach at Lamar University by university president James Simmons and then athletics director Billy Tubbs on May 19, 2008. He came to Lamar after serving three seasons at Navarro College - the first two as defensive coordinator and the final as head coach. His 2007 squad went 9-3 and advanced to the conference playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
From 2003-05, Woodard served as the head football and track coach at Burton (Texas) High School, with the Panthers winning the district title in track in 2004. He spent two years as the defensive coordinator at Livingston High School (1998-2001) and one season at Trinity HS (1997-98).
Woodard spent three years as the defensive coordinator for the Scottish Claymores from 2000-03 during his second stint with an NFL Europe franchise.
Woodard's other professional coaching experience came as the general manager/head coach for the Houston Outlaws (1999-2000) of the Regional Football League, defensive coordinator of the NFL Europe's Frankfurt Galaxy (1996-97) and the Texas Terror (1996) of the Arena Football League.
Woodard's first experience at the NCAA level came in 1998 when he was the defensive line coach at Louisiana-Lafayette. From 1988-95 Woodard was the defensive coordinator at Kilgore College and recruited more than 200 Texas high school student-athletes. The Rangers appeared in back-to-back Shrine Bowls in 1989 and 1990. Kilgore had a 9-2 record in 1990, won the conference championship and was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country.
Woodard also had a successful playing career, from his days at Corrigan-Camden HS to Kilgore College and the University of Texas to five years in the NFL. After earning 13 letters in four sports at Corrigan-Camden from 1975-79, he walked on at Kilgore College then went on to become a two-time All-America selection as a defensive tackle from 1980-81. The Rangers finished the 1980 season ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA rankings after posting a 10-1 record and winning the TJCFC Championship.
Woodard then finished his college career at Texas under coach Fred Akers. The 1982 team went 9-3 and finished the season ranked 17th nationally. As a senior in 1983, Woodard and the Longhorns posted a perfect 11-0 regular-season mark, captured the Southwest Conference championship and finished the season ranked fifth in the nation. Texas led the nation in total defense, yielding an average of 212 yards per game and surrendered less than 10 points per game.
Woodard was selected in the eighth round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He spent the next five seasons with the Chargers, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. He was a member of the Broncos' 1986 AFC Champion and Super Bowl team.
Woodard received his bachelor's degree in kinesiology and history from Sam Houston State in 1988 and his master's in education from the University of Texas at Tyler in 1991.
Woodard and the former Penne Striedel have been married since March, 1982. The couple has one daughter, Jessica, who was married in April, 2010, to Eric Martin. Woodard and his wife also became proud grandparents on Apr. 23, 2012, as Trey DeSoto Martin was welcomed into the world.
RAY WOODARD YEAR-BY-YEAR