MOAB — Grand High sophomore Sam Woodruff was so excited about practicing in pads for the first time this football season, he couldn't sleep until after 4 a.m. Saturday.
Even with just a few hours of rest, he was one of the first boys at the high school for Saturday morning's practice.
"The glow and smile on his face was all you needed to see to know just how happy and content he was with football," said his mom, Merry Woodruff. "Football and his team really meant the world to him. It was the center of his social life."
The day he’d looked forward to for weeks ended tragically when the 15-year-old died from unknown causes Saturday afternoon at his home in Moab. An autopsy was performed, but it could take weeks for officials to learn what led to the boy’s death.
Grand Superintendent Scott Crane released a statement regarding Woodruff’s death on Tuesday.
“As a district family and community we mourn the loss of one of our students,” he said in the statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are for the family at this difficult, sorrowful time. It’s not the district’s policy to discuss student information with the media.”
Merry Woodruff said her son was somewhat timid as he began his freshman year but gained confidence, in large part, because of his participation in the school’s football program.
“He wasn’t able to complete his freshman year due to academics,” said his mom, “and this only made him more determined. His academic success improved greatly during third trimester, ensuring he’d be eligible his sophomore season. Not only did he gain focus on an education, he became more determined to better himself physically.”
Woodruff didn’t miss a single day of summer weight training or conditioning.
“His goal was to become the starting center for the JV team this year, and with continued work, be starting center for varsity his senior season,” Merry said. “Sam was so committed, every coach had his attention.”
With success in school and within the program, Woodruff, who was always a considerate, compassionate young man, gained confidence.
“He found a home away from home and really began to excel,” said Merry. “The coaches and team cared a lot about Sam, and he always reciprocated back.”
An only child, the Red Devil football players became the brothers he’d never had.
“The team welcomed Sam with open arms,” Merry said. “The last night of team camp, they hold what is called family night, where the team sits down and open up without any fear. This is the most basic of all bonding for the team. Sam poured out his heart and soul and was fully embraced by the team as any other member. The team was his family away from his family.”
Those young men will be working at the cemetery Saturday morning to help pay for Sam’s burial plot, according to the team’s Facebook page. Saturday evening at 7 p.m., the team will hold it’s Red and White scrimmage game at the high school, at which it will have cans where people can donate to the Woodruff family.
Sam’s death was announced on the team’s Facebook page on Aug. 11, and community members, parents and former players expressed their love and support for the Woodruff family and the young men who will now dedicate the season to Sam.
“He was a hard worker and an inspiration to the team,” the team’s Facebook page said the day after Sam’s death. “We will be dedicating this years state championship to Sam. We will miss you buddy.”
Woodruff’s funeral will be held Friday at 4 p.m. in the Grand High auditorium. A viewing will be held Thursday, Aug. 15, from 6-8 p.m. at Spanish Valley Mortuary.
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