Jaiden Lars-Woodbey’s path to, and at, Florida State, has been an unorthodox journey for an unorthodox player.
Lars-Woodbey had begun playing football at five years old, always with the pipe dream of ending up at the highest level, but it wasn’t until high school his focus truly shifted, enabling him to strive to put the extra work in. He said was 14 when it finally kicked in that he wanted to, and could, make it to the NFL.
He got a last-minute offer to Florida State, a realized dream that begun the moment he witnessed Kelvin Benjamin clinch a national championship, after waiting endlessly for it. While in Tallahassee, he’s moved positions not once, but twice, before an injury ended a season that culminated in a brand new coaching staff.
“It’s all a part of a unique plan that’s in store for me,” the redshirt sophomore said, speaking from his California home. “The injury helped me grow as a person because it had me understand I’m more than a football player.
You have coaches tell you that all the time, and my parents have always said it, but when football actually went away, it forced me to actually think about it. It forced me to look at life from another perspective, that I didn’t think I’d have to think about so early.”
The “more than an athlete” mantra is one many have embodied and repeated, but few have as come to as close to perfecting at an early age.
Lars-Woodbey is on track to graduate this summer (international affairs, with a focus in urban and regional development) and follow it up by tacking on another degree (modern languages). He’s fluent in Portuguese, with French and Spanish on deck (“I’m in French 3, so like, I’m good, but not as good as I’d like.”), and is socially focused, taking the time to engage with the world around him, sports or not.
The jumping off point, according to him, has been an evolving interest in the dynamics of Brazilian culture. At first, it was a minor curiosity that sprung from wanting to know about his girlfriend’s family and background — eventually, he says, it took on a life of his own.
“I ended up liking Brazil a lot. It wasn’t even because of my girlfriend — I just wanted to know everything about it.”
He ended up going to the Brazilian Student Association to practice his Portuguese, eventually making visiting a habit — going to lectures and talking with native speakers to soak up as much possible knowledge about the country as possible.
“Even the professors were like, “people usually just only care about the beaches, but you want to know everything.”
He posted an article the other day detailing the plight of minorities within the country, an essay he wrote for class but felt the push to share on a larger scale.
“I’ve actually done three essays on Brazil this year, but for this one, I felt like I did so much research on it. There was just so many similarities between us and Brazil, and once I finished it, I wanted other people to see it too, so I ended up buying a blog and posting it. I didn’t want my teacher to be the only one to read it.”
I have decided to make an article talking about some of the marginalization tactics that have been enforced upon a certain demographic of Brazilians. Take a read and I hope you enjoy. https://t.co/jyJzldocnL— ϟ THOR ϟ (@JaidenWoodbey) April 4, 2020
Lars-Woodbey is doing his best to maintain a schedule, between video meetings, 19 credit hours of class work and most importantly, establishing a sense of overall normalcy. He’s with his family (mom, dad, brother and girlfriend), and appreciating the time he has with them. He blocks out his days, spreading out his various responsibilities, taking on the adversity to prepare for a successful future.
He’s trying to take all the positive he can out of the situation, relating it to the hurdles Florida State has, and still, will face on its way back to the standard its set for itself.
“For me, when we face adversity, we need to come together, rather than worrying about, ‘why is this happening to us?’,” he said. “I feel like we made steps doing that this year, of having people buy in — not having one foot in and one foot out, and devoting all your time and effort to make the team better. We have a lot of dudes with that mindset this year — holding on in the face of adversity, rather than trying to do it yourself.
There are a lot of teams that weren’t as athletically talented as us, but they just played as a team, and fought through adversity together. I’m not saying we didn’t do that, or can’t. I’m just saying once we do it more, if we can do that consistently, a lot of games would’ve turned out a lot differently.”