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Virginia QB, RHP Jay Woolfolk: Rare bona fide two-sport star student-athlete

jay woolfolk baseball
Jay Woolfolk. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Jay Woolfolk is the rare college student-athlete: a 2.45 ERA in 12 appearances out of the bullpen for the third-ranked Virginia baseball team, backup quarterback for the Virginia football team.

“What he is doing is incredibly rare at this elite level of college athletics, to play quarterback at a Power 5 football program, not only played quarterback, but got the start against Notre Dame in his freshman year, true freshman year, and then leading us in appearances out of the bullpen, for one of the top programs in the country. To handle that pressure, the kid’s got great poise. He’s obviously skilled, but he’s got something special about him,” UVA baseball coach Brian O’Connor told the “Jerry Ratcliffe Show” this week.

“Yeah, he’s got my attention in baseball. I don’t get him much for football, but how cool is that though? I mean, how cool is that? I mean, not many people … I remember when I was growing up, that was like, that was the thing. You had Dion, you had Brian Jordan, you had Bo Jackson, you had all these guys. Frank Thomas didn’t do it at the pro level, but he did in college. And so I’m actually excited for him and happy for him,” football coach Tony Elliott said.

Elliott would probably prefer to have Woolfolk in spring practice, which started two weeks ago, and will conclude with the spring game on April 23.

But the new football coach made it clear from the get-go that he had no problem with Woolfolk, a top pro prospect with a fastball in the low- to mid-90s, playing baseball in the spring.

“This wouldn’t be possible without Coach Elliott,” O’Connor said. “I’m a huge fan of Coach Elliott and the way he’s going to lead our football program. A great example of that is how he has handled Jay Woolfolk. He understands that this is a special kid, special athlete, that has a chance to do a couple different things. He’s worked really well with him and been understanding, and Coach Elliott has been very straightforward with him and with me, and him and I have had a great relationship on what is in the best interests of Jay Woolfolk, but also what’s in the best interests of the University of Virginia, and all that combined.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity that this young man has in both sports. He’s somebody in college athletics and at the University of Virginia that we should prop up and say, Hey, is this is a student-athlete who is doing is incredibly impressive,” O’Connor said.

On top of what he’s doing in two college sports, Woolfolk has to juggle in his studies as a first-year student at the University.

Think back to your college days. Freshman year was the hard one, just getting used to the harder classes, having to juggle things, getting things done without mom and dad and your teachers looking over your shoulder.

Woolfolk has that with his classes, and with two sports – two demanding sports.

“How do I make it work for myself is honestly following Coach O’Connor and Coach Elliott’s plan,” Woolfolk told CBS19 this week. “People say I got the hard part, but honestly I just got the easy part because I just listen to them.

“I don’t have no calendar, honestly I just kind of free ball it,” Woolfolk said. “I’m not the type of person that just sits down and plans everything out. I just know my schedule and know what I have to do to be successful here.”

Woolfolk was the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Virginia when he took the field against Notre Dame in November, and saw action in five games overall last fall, throwing for 245 yards and gaining 72 yards on the ground.

This spring with the baseball team, Woolfolk has struck out 29 and walked 12 in 18.1 innings, spread out over 12 appearances, with a 2.45 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and .121 opponent batting average.

He’s doing this while taking on a class load and also trying to get up to speed on the new Virginia offense being installed by Elliott, offensive coordinator Des Kitchings and quarterbacks coach Taylor Lamb.

“Jay’s a special young man to be able to do both. And it’s strictly voluntary on his part,” Lamb said. “He comes to see me, and we’ll go over some stuff, try to just so he’s not so far behind when he gets back to us. But like Coach Elliott said, he’s helping that baseball team win a bunch of games, so that’s where he’s needed right now for the University of Virginia. He was at practice this morning for the first half before he had to go to class, just to sit in meetings, learn a little bit, holding the script behind the play, looking at signals. So he’s mentally getting into it. But he’s all baseball right now.”

Count Virginia’s record-setting QB1, Brennan Armstrong, among those impressed.

“His schedule is insane,” said Armstrong, who threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall. “With baseball, it could be weekly, and then they could be gone for the weekend, just depending on how it goes. I’m still learning, getting everything down pat. But he’s here, here and there. I mean, he when he can get here in the morning, he’ll be here. And so that’s nice, you know, just him being around us again, even though he’s with the baseball team. Just having him back, it was a nice thing to see.”

Elliott said he fielded a question last week about what would happen if the baseball team, currently sitting at 26-3 and ranked third nationally, kept winning and got back to the College World Series.

How would that impact Woolfolk in terms of getting ready for the 2022 season?

It wouldn’t, Elliott said.

“He’s going to help those guys try and go win a championship if they’re fortunate enough to get there, and I’m going to be right there in the stands with my little boys, we’re going to be watching it,” Elliott said. “We’re going to go root Coach O’Connor and those guys on, but man, how impressive are those guys? They’re playing some really, really good baseball, and just excited that he’s contributing. And that’s the biggest thing for me.”

Woolfolk is humbled to have so many people pulling for him to be successful.

“For them to be behind me, for all the coaches to be behind me, then especially all the fans to be behind me,” Woolfolk said. “That’s an opportunity that you dream of and I’m thankful, I’m so glad I’m here honestly.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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