Woodruff Has The Bug For AFL

August 6, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Scott Woodruff is a corporate veteran of the Arena Football League, as he just completed his 11th consecutive season as a starter in an AFL front office.

The easygoing and friendly Woodruff also just finished the second year of his second tenure with the Grand Rapids Rampage, the AFL franchise owned by Dan and Pamella DeVos, and in this go-around, he recently became the team's general manager.

"Scott has done so much for Arena Football in Grand Rapids. He has done a great job on the business side, and we expect him to continue to grow with an added focus on the football operations, as well," said Scott Gorsline, Rampage chief operating officer.

In his first stint with the Rampage, which ran from 1998 to 2004 and included the Arena Bowl championship year in 2001, Woodruff was the executive director of development and oversaw the team's sales, public relations efforts and branding strategy.

But as for his development, Woodruff said the playing field has had little to do with the success he has achieved. He said the main reason why he is at the top of his game is because of his wife, Sarah. He said she is the one person that has been most responsible for his good fortune and flourishing career.

"None of what I've accomplished would have been accomplished if it wasn't for her. The support system I get from her means everything," he said.

Woodruff met his future wife at DP Fox Sports and Entertainment LLC when she was directing corporate sales for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League team the DeVoses own with David Van Andel. After a year-and-a-half of running into each other in the corridors of Van Andel Arena, where both teams have their autonomous business offices located, they started dating.

Scott Woodruff
Company: Grand Rapids Rampage
Title: General Manager
Age: 40
Birthplace: Newport Beach, Calif.
Residence: Ada Township
Family: Sarah, wife; Claire and Eric, children
Biggest Career Break: Meeting Sarah.

"We kept it very low profile because we were working together. Then we eventually got engaged and got married. Then when we started a family, she became a full-time, stay-at-home mom," he said.

Scott and Sarah have two children: Claire and Eric.

Woodruff, a native of California who has lived, worked and studied in six states during his 40 years, said another person besides Sarah had a major impact on his life and eventually his career. While an undergraduate at Mankato State University in Minnesota, Woodruff met graduate student Roderick Kelly at a key time in his personal development.

"I was kind of immature my first couple of years in college, to be quite candid with you. I liked to have fun more than I liked to study. Going into my junior year, I signed up for a placement service that finds roommates and, just by the luck of the draw, I got placed to live with this guy named Roderick Kelly," he said.

Kelly was 31 years old at the time, about 10 years older than Woodruff. He had already earned a degree from the University of Michigan and had worked in the corporate world before he decided to return to school to get an MBA.

"He had an extremely positive influence on me. He was a mentor and a big brother. He helped me mature and adopt a serious approach to my studies. After meeting Roderick, I went from a student that just got by — and I mean just got by — to a student that was pulling straight As and was in the library four days a week," he said.

"It was also because of Roderick that I decided once I was done with my bachelor's that I wanted to go on and get my master's. And I did that. I don't think I would have learned the study habits and discipline I needed if I wasn't teamed up with Roderick."

When Woodruff first left Washington State University with his MBA in hand, he took a position in the food industry. It was a job he liked, but sports — especially football — was a passion for him. He learned that Portland was getting an AFL expansion team, which turned out to be the Forest Dragons. After hearing that news, he knew he had to become a Dragon.

"I called their general manager, a guy named Kent Wilson, and I called him nine days in a row and got his voice mail nine days in a row. He never called me back. So on the 10th day, I finally wised up. I know that executives get in early and stay late, so I called him at 5:30 in the morning. I thought there isn't going to be a gatekeeper there then; it's only going to be him," he said.

Woodruff was right. Wilson answered his call and invited him in for an interview. He got the job, of course. But Woodruff admitted that when he joined Portland, he thought he'd only work in the AFL for a few years and then move on to the National Football League.

"But I just got the bug for this league, the sport, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else," he said.

After a season in Portland, Woodruff came to the Rampage and stayed for six years until 2004 when he joined the Chicago Rush. He held the same post in Chicago that he had here and planned to stay there for at least five years. But then the Rampage restructured its front office and asked Woodruff to come back. So after two seasons with the Rush, the Woodruffs decided to return to Grand Rapids, and he began his second tour with the Rampage.

"We were thrilled to come back to a place we loved so much," he said.

When Woodruff isn't calling the business plays for the Rampage, he likes to huddle with his family. He also likes to read. In fact, some might call him a voracious reader, as he normally reads three books at a time. Sometimes he has four going at once.

"I always have one business book going because I'm always trying to improve in the area that I work in. I always have one fiction book, like a paperback thriller, something that serves as an escape novel. And I always have one book that I know nothing about. In fact, I just bought two books online about the Roman Empire because I don't know anything about the Roman Empire," he said.

"The fourth book is usually another business book."

Woodruff and his family are heading out on a vacation and that is when he'll read about togas, a fiddle player and the Roman Empire. But he will also give a lot of thought to his immediate future over that break. The Rampage elevated him from the head of business operations to the GM post in May, and now he has additional responsibilities, like last week's hiring of Steve Thonn as head coach.

"Right now, everything is about becoming more confident in my current position. We have so much going on here with rebuilding the football operations. I'm really immersed in that and seeing this as my top priority for the next 18 to 24 months," he said.

On the personal level, Woodruff's priorities haven't changed.

"My No. 1 goal is to be the best husband and father that I can be."     

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