Game plans are as much a part of football as halfbacks and huddles.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, former Jets linebacker John Woodring, an elementary school teacher for the past 22 years, has had to look at his own, in this case, lesson plans, and call an audible.
Teaching third grade at Tokeneke Elementary in Darien, Connecticut, precautions concerning the virus closed the school. Which means that Woodring and his 19 students have not seen one another in person for months.
"Obviously, it was something very unexpected," Woodring said. "I think our district responded very well and very positively. But as a teacher, one of the things that you enjoy and relish is the day-to-day instruction and interaction with your kids and getting to really know them, understand them, help them, and teach them.
"(What I enjoy most about teaching over the years is) when somebody who didn't get it, gets it. You can just see the little light bulb go on over their head. 'Oh, I understand that.' That's really very satisfying and very gratifying and very rewarding."
While his students have been learning in a virtual classroom, Woodring has learned a few things himself.
"It obviously became a lot more difficult without that sort of personal interaction," Woodring said. "I learned a lot about technology in a very, very short period of time. Emails, Google Meets, Zooms, you name it. Any way that you could keep in touch with the kids. There might have been a lot more that you had to do to set up an opportunity to meet and go over a problem or teach them a new point. Everything in terms of time was magnified.
"All the teachers engaged in whole class meetings, individual meetings, small group meetings, a lot of different ways to try to help kids out, help them learn in what was not the easiest of circumstances.
"You appreciate how much fun it is to be with a student in the classroom as opposed to distance learning. That experience, at least on my part having taught for so many years, I maybe took for granted and how much I really value that."
A valuable addition to the Jets in 1981, Woodring was drafted in the sixth round out of Brown University, where he was an honorable mention All-America and second team All-East as a senior.
"I had no idea whether I would be drafted or not. I was told by some people that I could be drafted, I could be a free agent, I could be nothing at all. I did know that the Jets were interested," Woodring said. "When you get that call, you kind of realize, holy cow, that game that you played all your life, that you absolutely love, you're now getting the opportunity to play it at the highest level.
"There's a lot of really great feelings that you have. Will I be good enough? This is awesome. I can't believe it. This is something that I've always wanted. Let's see how we do."
He did exceptionally well and in his second year, was chosen as the Jets' special teams captain for the first of three consecutive seasons.
"Truthfully, it meant the world to me," said Woodring, who played five seasons with New York from 1981-85 and recovered seven fumbles. "You have to figure out as a player how you're going to make a team. And if you're not a starter, you better be able to do a lot of other things that make you valuable to the people who make those decisions want to keep you. So, I tried my best. I played all the special teams. Tried to be the best tackler, the best blocker, the best everything."
In the strike-shortened 1982 campaign, the Jets came close to being the best the AFC had to offer. After posting a 6-3 record, New York took to the road for the playoffs and defeated the Cincinnati Bengals and the then-Los Angeles Raiders, before meeting the Miami Dolphins for the conference crown on a rain-soaked Orange Bowl field.
"It was a very tight game and there was a call where we thought one of the running backs for Miami had fumbled and we recovered it. It would have been a big turnover and prevented them from driving and maybe scoring some points. The referee called that it wasn't a fumble and that it was Miami's ball, and they went in to score," Woodring said of the 14-0 loss.
"It was disappointing because other than getting drafted, your aspirations for playing is you want a ring. It would have been nice to have the opportunity to play the Redskins in the Super Bowl. I think we could have done better than the Dolphins did. But that's neither here nor there. They got to go, and we didn't."
Woodring did get to coach his sons: Erik and Kevin, who went on to play for and graduate from Middlebury College; and Kyle, who is an offensive lineman at Trinity College, in youth football. And since 2016, he has been the special teams coach at Greenwich High School.
"When I started out, the first thing I thought about was our special teams coach (with the Jets), Larry Pasquale," Woodring said. "I remember a lot of the different things and schemes and techniques that he had taught us. I've probably evolved into something a little bit different, but he definitely gave me a starting point for what I was doing at the high school level."
And what does Woodring, who makes his home in Norwalk with his wife, Cindy, enjoy most about coaching at the high school level?
"For me, it's being able take young men and contributing to them being respectable, productive members of society," he said. "And then having fun along the way coaching football and seeing if the special teams can help us win a game. Kind of in that order."