We know fullbacks as football’s gritty down-in-the-dirt guys.
For confirmation, look no further than last week’s Army highlights of a 21-13 win over Wake Forest. Fullback Darnell Woolfolk scored the game-clinching touchdown when he plowed a pile of bodies – Wake Forest defenders tangled among Army blockers – into the end zone.
That kind of player isn’t often confused with a Renaissance Man. Such guys don’t play the oboe, baritone and ukulele or sing in the choir.
Maybe on a football roster there are punters, kickers or wide receivers that take on the characteristics of Renaissance Men, but not fullbacks.
“It’s funny you said that — Edgar Poe is a great singer,” said Woolfolk, referring to the Black Knights’ big-play wide receiver.
All of the above characteristics also apply to Woolfolk, a 5-foot-9, 225-pound sophomore from Endwell, N.Y.
“It’s always good to have interests outside of football,” he said. “If you enjoy something, you should embrace it. You’ve got to have extra interests.”
Woolfolk carried 11 times for 42 yards, and his one score to help the Black Knights surprise favored Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The crucial victory sets up Army (5-3) to face Air Force (5-3) Saturday at Michie Stadium.
One more win clinches Army bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. It also keeps alive the Black Knights’ hopes to win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996. Air Force, having already defeated Navy, can clinch the CIC Trophy and trip to the White House for the seniors. Army must beat both Air Force and then end a 14-game losing streak to Navy in the 117th Army-Navy Game on Dec. 10 in Baltimore.
“We’re very excited to play Air Force,” Woolfolk said. “They’re a great team, they’re well coached they’re obviously a challenge for us just like Wake Forest was. But we’re only focused on next game our most important game. If we don’t execute in this game, we can’t think about the future.”
Woolfolk is second on the team in touchdowns with six and fourth in rushing with 240 yards while playing a backup fullback role to Andy Davidson. He leads the team in rushing (662 yards) and touchdowns (seven).
Together, Woolfolk and Davidson are closing on a combined 1,000-yard season from the position that must run the dive consistently to set up the rest of the triple-option offense. Davidson averages 5.4 yards a carry and Woolfolk 4.1.
Woolfolk spent the 2014 season at the Army prep school and gained limited playing time without any carries as a freshman in 2015. He says the difference in his game this year to get on the field has been improved pass blocking.
“The biggest change is getting my eyes in the right place for reads on pass blocking,” he said. “It’s something I really work on in practice. Even though we don’t pass a lot, we work it into our game plan. We have good receivers. And obviously I’ve improved my vision in the running game, too.”
He didn’t need much vision on his 6-yard TD plow at Wake Forest that finished a 12-play, 60-yard drive for a 21-10 lead with 2:54 left in the game.
“I got a great push from the O-line,” Woolfolk said, “and the rest was a lot of work in the weight room.”
Woolfolk has grown comfortable with his labels, even though it also should be noted Renaissance Men aren’t called “Butch.”
That’s a new nickname Army defensive coordinator Jason Bateman slapped on Darnell. It’s an homage to Butch Woolfolk, the 1981 Big Ten rushing leader at Michigan who went on to play seven years in the NFL.
As long as Army wins football games, Woolfolk is comfortable carrying the football or playing his latest instrument he’s learned to strum, the ukulele.
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter @shanny4055