July 11 figured to be a happy day for Paul Woods' family because it's his mother's birthday.
The Canisius senior-to-be gave his mom, Latesha, a gift she will always remember Tuesday when he verbally committed to play college football at Big Ten school Rutgers.
Woods, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound receiver, picked the Scarlet Knights' offer over those from 10 other schools, including Boston College. He narrowed the list prior to his announcement to four with University at Buffalo, Cincinnati and Temple being among his finalists.
Woods said yes to the offer from Rutgers because he feels it has an excellent coaching staff led by head coach Chris Ash.
"I have a great relationship with them," said Woods, a second team All-Western New York selection in 2016. "I liked the high energy that came from Rutgers. Overall it was just a great campus.
"I went to their" football "camp and it was a great atmosphere and made for an exciting experience. … I have to work for my spot. I'm just grateful for what I have to look forward to."
In Woods, the Scarlet Knights get a big-play receiver with size and speed as he runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 second range.
Woods averaged 19.5 yards per catch last season, finishing with 35 total catches for 684 yards and eight touchdowns. He helped the Crusaders (10-2) win the New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association championship last December, finishing with nine catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the 50-44 triumph over Cardinal Hayes in New York City.
Woods can officially sign as early as late December during a three-day window approved by the NCAA in the spring. However, the official national signing day is Feb. 7, 2018.
When Woods signs his letter, he'll be the fourth Canisius player to hook up with a Big Ten program in recent years. T.J. Wheatley, the 2014 News Player of the Year, is a tight end at Michigan. Two-time first team All-WNY kicker Blake Haubeil is a freshman at Ohio State, while speedy Des Nicholas, who earned a track scholarship to Michigan in 2016, recently secured a walk-on spot on the Wolverines' football team.
According to Canisius assistant coach Bryce Hopkins, Woods' commitment makes it 11 straight years the Crusaders have had at least one senior earn a Division I scholarship.
"Days like this are of course awesome for Paul and the family but also a great feeling for our program," Crusaders coach Rich Robbins said. "We take a lot of pride helping kids be able to get to the next level. Paul is another guy in a long line of players the last few years who have been able to get a Division I scholarship."
Aside from making a decision on where to attend college, did Woods get his mother anything else on her special day?
"This is enough," she said.
Woods' verbal commitment is part of run of festive moments for the family. Woods' parents celebrate their anniversary Wednesday. His dad, also named Paul, has a birthday on Thursday.
The family also is counting the days (and their blessings) until Woods' older brother Rashad returns home from sea. Rashad, who helped Sweet Home win the Section VI Class A title in 2014, is currently in the Navy and stationed on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald. That's the vessel which collided with a cargo ship last month near Japan, an accident that claimed the lives of seven sailors.
"He got out safely," said Woods, eagerly awaiting his return home next month. "We're just praying to God at night and thankful for him watching over us.
"I'm glad my brother is OK. … Everything is starting to fall into place. A couple weeks ago things were stressful. … Everything is starting to calm down."
With Woods making his college plans known, that makes it three Western New York football talents who have verbally committed to Division I programs the past month – prior to the start of their senior seasons. Medina star receiver Jalin Cooper recently committed to Toledo. Bishop Timon-St. Jude quarterback Matt Myers, a 2016 first team All-WNY pick, verballed last month to University at Buffalo.
"I feel that Buffalo right now we have a lot of great players in the 2018 class," Woods said.