Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods was watching when the Chicago Bears’ potential game-winning field goal bounced off the crossbar and sent the Philadelphia Eagles to the next round of the playoffs.
Woods couldn’t help but smile, because he knew he was going home.
Woods played at USC from 2012-15 after growing up in Los Angeles and attending Taft Charter High School, just west of Sherman Oaks.
The Eagles’ win meant the Cowboys would play the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round. The teams play at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at LA Memorial Coliseum, on the campus of USC. The Rams (and Los Angeles Chargers) will move their games to a new stadium in 2020.
It’s a stadium Woods knows well.
“To be able to go there for a big playoff game is pretty exciting so I’m definitely excited to go home,” he said.
The only rub about his homecoming? He’s being inundated by ticket requests from friends, family and others that might escape easy classification.
“As soon as the Eagles won and the clock said zero I looked at my phone and I had about 50 requests for tickets,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, some of you will get the ‘no’ answer, but it’s all love, it’s all good. I get to go back home to LA and all my friends and family get to watch me play.”
Woods has become a consistent force in the middle of the Cowboys’ defensive line, along side Maliek Collins. Together they’ve combined for 4.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and two fumble recoveries. The Cowboys’ No. 6-rated defense are the top-rated defense left in the playoffs. New Orleans is the next-closest at 14th. Woods said none of that matters if it doesn’t look like it against the Rams on Saturday.
“We know we are [the best defense in the NFL] when we play at our standard,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we don’t do it Saturday so we’ve got to show up Saturday and be the best defense in the NFL.”
Woods, who played in one game for the Titans as a rookie in 2016 and remained on their practice squad through much of last season, signed with the Cowboys in May. He was fined just over $10,000 for taunting when he celebrated Dak Prescott’s two-point conversion pass to Michael Gallup in New York on Dec. 30, but he’s appealing.
“I ran onto the field with no helmet on,” he said. “I kind of got to the middle of the field. I turned around and I might have been the only one at the 50. It was dumb. Hell no, it wasn’t worth it.”
Woods has fonder memories of walking off the coliseum field for the last time, a 40-21 win against rival UCLA.
“It was an emotional day because I never stepped on the field again after that,” he said. “But we get to go back now. First time going back to LA as a pro. It’s real special. Being an athlete at USC and a fan of USC growing up. It was a big deal for me while I was in college playing at that stadium so the fact that now I’m a professional and get to head back home to my college stadium is a big deal.”