J.D. Woods took plenty of hits as a former safety when he played football in high school and at Illinois State .
They were nothing compared to the ones life handed him.
"It takes 11 guys to move the ball 10 yards, and moving the ball 10 yards is a lot like life," said Woods, an assistant coach at Windermere Prep. "You can't change the past. You can only change what's in front of you, and for four downs and 10 yards, you can change who you are."
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Woods, 46, understands the value of a good coach. Coaches filled the gap after Woods said he and his four siblings were abandoned when he was 6 months old and his adopted father died six years later.
Woods is one of numerous area assistant coaches who work countless hours, for little to no pay, and keep Central Florida programs running smoothly. Some are former players. Others are assisting because their sons play. Then there are community members who want to make a difference.
Most are not the father of football-playing triplets at Mount Dora, like Hurricanes assistant George Fuller, or practiced against Hall of Fame QB Johnny Unitas with the Baltimore Colts, like assistant Tim Murphy at Bishop Moore.
"What's most important to me is making the kids better people," said Murphy, who played with the Orlando Panthers in the 1960s.
"It's hot out there. You have to work together. You have to listen to somebody yelling directions. It's a great foundation for life."
The size of coaching staffs and the money allocated to assistants varies, depending on the school. Assistants can volunteer their time for no pay, but for those who are compensated financially, it is not much, given the hours required.
"The biggest thing is the time," said Dr. Phillips coach Rodney Wells, who has 13 assistants (four volunteers). "[It's] the time away from their family, the time away from their kids and the sacrifices their girlfriends, wives and kids have to make, not having them around."
Fuller understands. The Mount Dora graduate coached football for 15 years while he taught at Eustis, but after he and his wife had four children within a year, including triplets, he hung up his whistle.
Last year, after a 13-year hiatus, he joined the coaching staff at Mount Dora, which his four children attend. Fuller, who owns a real-estate management company, works with the Hurricanes six days a week.
"It keeps me around the kids, keeps me young and I lose a little bit of weight,'' Fuller said.
Ray Caraballo, a UCF student studying sports exercise science, is the defensive coordinator at Orlando University. A former military brat, Caraballo cherishes the team camaraderie.
"When my dad was in Iraq, I had my coaching family to lean on," said Caraballo, a former University player. "Having the team around, being part of a family and competition, you can't get that stuff in normal-day life."
Woods can relate, having spent 12 years in the military and special forces. His mission now is to provide every player with life lessons he learned the hard way and have fun doing it.
He tells Windermere Prep's players to remember four things: No. 1, Hydrate; No. 2, Eat; No. 3, Start fast and finish; and No. 4, No shenanigans.
"Do not get on Facebook and start trouble with the other team," Woods said in a low, gruff voice. "I'm on there. I will find you. Even if you block me, I'll come through your screen."
The players let out a laugh. Mission accomplished.