By Gary Jaramillo
I had the unique opportunity to visit with Don Woods (former NFL great) at our local Supermart Store. He was in town raising money for kids at risk and his Ray of Hope Foundation, and also to visit his wife’s family, who live here in Socorro and are originally from Reserve. He is married to Margaret Montano and was excited to be able to spend time with his in-laws while raising money for the nonprofit foundation he and his wife began in order to promote values in post secondary areas of education.
Before teaching, Woods played football at Highlands University in Las Vegas his first three years of college and finished up at the University of New Mexico. His talents got him drafted into the National Football League by the New York Jets in 1974 and then traded to the Green Bay Packers, where he missed the final cut, and was finally picked up by the San Diego Chargers, where he played for one of his past UNM football coaches, Rudy Feldman, who had a pretty good idea about just how talented Woods was on the field of play.
Woods took advantage of an injury that placed the Chargers starting running back on the bench and really took charge and impressed the team’s coaches and ownership in the end. His almost 1,200-yard season ranked him a close second in the league that year behind Otis Armstrong of the Denver Broncos and just ahead of the great Buffalo Bills runner O.J. Simpson. He also garnered Rookie of the Year honors that season.
Woods finished up his NFL Career with the San Francisco ‘49ers in 1980, and resumed his educational goals in order to get his master’s degree and his interest and love for helping others realize their educational and life dreams have been moving ahead at full steam, like the way he used to run in the NFL. He hasn’t let anything slow him down when it comes to helping his kids in school. Woods has been teaching for more than 20 years in the Albuquerque schools and charter schools as well.
Each year, Woods hosts an annual golf tournament that raises money for kids who want to attend college and he has great plans to build a Ray of Hope Charter School in the south valley of Albuquerque within the next couple of years. His new school would help at-risk students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, and would also provide flexibility which would help special needs students as well.
“We don’t want to let any of our kids fall through the cracks ever again,” said Woods.
He smiles every time he talks about his kids and the possibilities that will come with his new school in Albuquerque. Football was a very special part of his life, but the kids that he cares about and love so much are just as special and fill his and Margaret’s hearts with pure joy and contentment.
It was a pleasure to meet a great former professional athlete and even greater man with a big heart and love for educating those less fortunate. It’s nice to know that he didn’t just sit back and rest on his laurels, but decided long ago that his life has only begun after he left the playing field so many years ago.
Congratulations to Woods for caring so much about our children, and congratulations to the kids who will succeed because he made a choice to make a difference in so many other people’s lives. It’s also pretty neat to have a gentleman of his caliber dropping in for a family visit from time to time here in Socorro. We wish him and his extended Montano family from here in Socorro and Reserve the very best always.