A lot of players remain in the same football position throughout high school and college. Then, they transition to the NFL in the same role.
But there’s also plenty of players who move to a new position to continue their football careers. That was the case for new Indianapolis Colts tight end Jelani Woods.
Based on the 247Sports composite rankings, Woods arrived at Oklahoma State as a 3-star pro-style quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class. But before the end of his redshirt freshman season, Woods shared during his Colts introductory press conference that Oklahoma State needed him to line up as a tight end on its scout offense.
That was the beginning of his transition from quarterback to tight end. Because as it turns out, Woods deserved a spot at tight end on a regular college offense.
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Jelani Woods’ Tight End Career Began as a Mark Andrews Impersonation
Standing at 6-foot-7, Woods was the best option for the Oklahoma State defense to prepare for then Oklahoma star tight end Mark Andrews. Woods explained in his Colts introductory press conference that mimicking Andrews, who became an NFL All-Pro tight end in 2021, was how his career as a tight end began.
“[My coaches] wanted me to impersonate Mark Andrews for the week [at practice], and I ended up pretty much killing our starting defense,” Woods said. “The next morning, they ended up calling me and asking me to switch to tight end, and if I’d have any problem with it.
“I ended up switching that same day, and then going into bowl season, I started getting my reps in at tight end and stuff like that.”
Woods, who the Colts drafted at No. 73 overall in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, also said that he had fun the entire week impersonating Andrews for the team’s starting defense. So much fun, in fact, that he says he knew right away he wanted to play tight end.
“[Switching to tight end] was always in the back of my head when it happened,” Woods added. “And then when they actually asked me to switch, that’s why it was so easy I would say because of how much fun I had and then thinking about the future and how I could do that in a real game.”
How Jelani Woods Fits With the Colts
Indianapolis came into the 2022 NFL Draft with Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson already on the roster at tight end. But with veteran Jack Doyle announcing his retirement on March 7, the Colts were potentially interested in adding another tight end in the draft.
Mock drafts this offseason almost universally projected the Colts to target pass catchers in the draft. As a big tight end who has upside as a pass catcher, Woods satisfies both needs.
“While he looks lumbering in the early stages of the route, he played with good physicality throughout and does a nice job of shielding defenders from playing the football,” NFL analyst Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote. “His hands aren’t great as a blocker or pass-catcher and both will need work, but his breakout 2021 could foreshadow more to come as an in-line backup with upside.”
Surprisingly, Woods says he developed his physical nature while playing quarterback. He added in his Colts introductory press conference that his physical traits helped him transition to tight end.
“Physicality and speed and stuff like that, I pretty much had all those all along while being at quarterback because I was more of a dual-threat type of quarterback that loved to, you know, run the ball and get physical,” Woods said. “Especially running gap-scheme type of plays. That definitely helped a lot.”
If Woods can sometimes impersonate Andrews in NFL games like he did in college practices, the Colts have definitely found an additional weapon for their offense.