Woodhead had an immediate impact. In his first game, against Minnesota-Duluth, he rushed for only 28 yards, but one of his nine carries went for a 16-yard touchdown. "You could see right then that he was playing at a different speed," says O'Boyle. By the end of his freshman season Woodhead had run for a Division II--best 1,840 yards and 25 touchdowns. Last fall he became the first collegian to run for more than 2,700 yards in a season and won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player in Division II.
Woodhead is ideally suited to the Eagles' zone-read offense. He is small enough to get lost behind his linemen and quick enough to burst through a hole. "The poor linebackers can't see him until he's right on top of them, and by then it's too late," says Smith. "It's almost not fair."
It would have been easy for Woodhead to stir up jealousy or resentment on the team—after all, he'd jumped past two seniors to the top of the depth chart by the second game of his freshman year—but he defused the situation by keeping his head down and his mouth shut. Those are rules he adheres to today. "He's just not a cocky kid," says senior wideout Landon Ehlers, who shares an off-campus house with Woodhead. "Danny would be the first to say that he'd sacrifice that record for a national championship."
Woodhead still burns at the memory of the Eagles' 28--21 loss to second-ranked Northwest Missouri State in last year's Division II quarterfinals, a game in which he rushed for a career-low 16 yards. And he takes no consolation in the fact that he led the team with 10 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. It is because of that loss—and not, Woodhead insists, because he hopes to play in the NFL—that he dedicated himself to off-season workouts designed to increase his speed and upper-body strength. "I wanted to leave no doubt this year," he says.
NFL scouts are bound to take notice anyway. There is nothing slight about Woodhead's frame. Indeed, he looks as if he was constructed out of concrete blocks. The next level is within reach. "Honestly, I think he's faster now than ever," says O'Boyle. "If he gets invited to the [ NFL scouting] combine, I think he's going to open some eyes." Not that he hasn't already.