Cierre Wood hasn't lost his swagger

Cierre Wood hasn't lost his swagger
March 28, 2013, 4:15 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Cierre Wood returned to northern Indiana for Notre Dame's pro day, trading in the pleasant climates of California and Florida for whipping winds, chilly temperatures and plenty of snow. Putting his deadpan hat on, Wood said he's happy to be back.

"There's no place I would rather be than school. You know, who wouldn't want to be here in South Bend, Indiana, negative degrees, snow everywhere, see all kinds of reindeers and stuff like that," Wood said with a completely straight face. "It's cool, standing outside, just play with the snow, snow angels, it's tight. I miss it a lot. More than anything in the world."

More than the sun and warm weather of Hollywood, Calif., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he trained for the NFL Scouting Combine and pro day?

"Naw, who needs warm weather," Wood asked rhetorically, still with a straight face. "It's a lot of sun, lot of girls in bathing suits, who cares? Who needs that? I see a lot of people in Eskimo suits here, that's just fine, fine for me."

[More: Neal transfer leaves Notre Dame shorthanded]

Wood, though, was entirely serious about improving his draft stock during Tuesday's pro day. The running back ran a 4.50 40-yard dash, 0.06 seconds faster than his run at the combine. He did 18 bench press reps, two more than he did in Indianapolis -- an improvement he jokingly blamed on the weights at the combine vs. at Notre Dame -- and overall felt great about his showing in front of scouts on Tuesday.

"I wanted to come back to my pro day and make a splash, and that's exactly what I did today," Wood said.

That's the kind of overflowing swagger Wood possesses. Even as he carried the ball less during his final year at Notre Dame -- 114 in 2012, as opposed to 217 in 2011 -- he found a new way to channel that bravado.

"Yeah, it was frustrating, but you gotta take the good with the bad in situations like that," Wood said. "I'm pretty sure (NFL scouts are) looking for you to pout and stuff like that, but I'm not the type to do that. Basically, what I tried to do was make every play that I got in on was a long run. For the most part, last season, that's what I did, breaking 60, 50-yard run on the daily. You just gotta tailor your game according to what you get, so that's basically what I tried to do."

That's a bit of an overstatement from Wood, who broke touchdown runs of 62 and 68 yards against Oklahoma and Wake Forest, respectively. Wood was suspended for the first two games of the season, then saw 10 or fewer carries in five of Notre Dame's remaining 11 games. He managed to average over 5 yards per carry in every game in which he played except against USC and Alabama, showing the kind of explosiveness that could make him a mid-round steal in next month's NFL Draft.

Wood's confident, though, that his tape from 2011 -- in which he rushed for 1,102 yards and 9 touchdowns -- is enough to overcome the 103-carry dropoff he saw in 2012.

"A lot of the teams I talked to, they've seen a lot of my work not just from this year, but from last year as well. I have something to speak on in my behalf," Wood said. "I'm lucky as far as that goes. I didn't have a lot of tape this year, but like I said, the things I've done in the past kind of speak for itself."

Even while he saw less time on the field, Wood's confidence didn't wane. This is the same guy who said of Manti Te'o during the 2012 season: "He thinks he can guard me, but he can’t. I don’t care how good he is, he can’t guard me."

[More: Te'o making a (faster) run to NFL Draft]

That's the same attitude Wood will take to whatever team selects him next month. He'll likely face an uphill climb for carries in his rookie year, but true to form, that doesn't daunt him.

"I don't care if I go in there fifth or sixth in line, I guarantee I'll make my way up to that first spot the first chance I get," Wood said. "That's like that with anything, you're in class, you got homework, you got tests, you gotta do what you gotta do. Sometimes you gotta stay up all night to get that good grade. So I'm gonna do whatever I gotta do to get my spot, or at least get on the field, whether that be special teams -- whatever I gotta do to help the team, that's what I'm gonna do.

"When I get there, I'm gonna show them what I got, show them I can play the game and everything should fall into place."

For now, Wood's going to stick around South Bend as he begins his final push toward April 25. If anything, the Oxnard, Calif. native probably hopes it's the last Midwest experience he'll get.

"I'm gonna stick around, gonna shovel my stairs for once. I've never done it," Wood said, still stonefaced. "I see it all the time, I just want to try to get out there and see what that's like, this Midwest life for a couple of weeks. And see what it's like, really. I mean, everybody's always talking about the Midwest, the cold is good, the cold is this, I'm gonna see what it's like."