For DeShawn Woodhouse, it wasn’t a bad last meal.
Woodhouse is a junior at Northeast High School, and on Thanksgiving, and after he and his teammates powered past Central 23-7 in the annual showdown, most celebrated with lots of turkey, potatoes and all the other good things people enjoy on the big day.
So did Woodhouse, but he knew full well that it was the last time he’d be chowing down on a massive meal for the next three months or so.
Even if it means no banana pudding.
“I knew it was my last big meal because I start wrestling on Tuesday and I do have to drop some,” said Woodhouse, a linebacker and running back who also wrestles at the 189-pound weight class for the Vikings. “We ate at my cousins’ and my aunt made banana pudding, which I love. I had some of it, but most of it is going to my mom and my brother. I can’t do that for a little while.
“I weigh about 195 pounds right now, so I do have some weight to drop. But I’ll be good. Once you start wrestling, you lose weight quickly. I’m starting practice Tuesday, so I’ll be fine once I start working out.”
Start working out for his winter sport, he means.
Woodhouse has been working out daily since the start of football season, and a few weeks after he met with first-year Northeast coach Ryan Nase, he added a few new roles.
First, Woodhouse became a starter. He plays weakside linebacker, and works in at fullback, the position he was playing when he punched in a score against Central.
He also became a captain, which was pretty cool for a junior.
“Coach told me he made us captains because we do the right things, both in football and when we’re in school,” said Woodhouse, who lives about a mile away from his high school. “It felt good. It was unexpected, but something that made me want to work harder. It made me want to set a good example. We have three junior captains, so we should be good next year. We should have great leaders.”
It was his first time leading a football team, but he gained valuable experience as a sophomore when he became a leader on the wrestling team.
Not only did it help him enjoy a second great season on the varsity wrestling team, but taught him what he needed to do to set an example for teammates.
“I became a captain in the middle or the end of last year, because we had some good leaders, but some left,” Woodhouse said. “I just kept working. Tried to get better, and we had a really good season.”
A season that was cut short when he dislocated his knee during the Public League wrestling individual championships, which was just after he helped Northeast win another Public League championship. It did keep him out of wrestling at the district level for the second year in a row, but he worked hard to get better.
This football season was the perfect way to get back in action. After recovering from the knee injury and working his way into the lineup, he helped lead Northeast to a strong season.
The Vikings won eight games and advanced to the Public League Class 6A championship. There, Northeast fell to Lincoln, but played much better in the final than it did during the regular season.
Couple that with some solid returning players, a few who were leaders of this year’s team, and the recipe for success is there.
It’s now a matter of cooking.
“Beating Central means a lot because there’s so much history, like a couple hundred years,” he said with a laugh. “More people talk about that game than anything. A lot of our people care about the Turkey Bowl a lot more than the championship. So it’s nice to end the season that way. Especially because of how we got better.
“I feel like our team next year will be better. We are building our program. Coach Nase is a great coach, a hard-working coach, keeps us disciplined and he’s not just a coach on the field, off the field, too. He keeps our minds right on and off the field.
“It was hard playing for him at first because it was new, then I got used to him. The changes you make, you have to make for yourself, too. It was hard, but we all got used to him. I think we had a great year. A new coach, everyone said we were going to be way worse than we were. We did better than everyone thought we would. The coaches were a big reason for that. They taught us.”
He’s not just thankful for his coaching staff, his team and being back for wrestling. He’s also thankful for his family, even if they do chow down on his banana pudding.
“I am the youngest, I have four brothers, all older,” Woodhouse said. “I think that’s why I was better, younger, it helped me. I was used to doing everything against older brothers. They helped me a lot.
“My brothers were good athletes. So was my dad. He liked football, but he was a boxer. He fought Golden Gloves. My family is very supportive. They come to games when they can, my parents are there. My brothers aren’t all around, but when they are, they go. We’re close. They’ve helped me a lot.”