0

Wood pleased to be part of Duke revival

ATLANTA - Ryan Wood's day at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday was a disappointment in several ways.

After playing in each of Duke's first four games in this his senior season, the former Buford receiver did not get a chance to play in his home state.

And, of course, the Blue Devils' 27-0 loss to Georgia Tech was the biggest disappointment of the day.

Still, disappointments are becoming rarer for Wood since he started at Duke four seasons ago.

At 3-2 following Saturday's loss to Tech, Duke has still won more games this season than in the previous three seasons of Wood's career combined.

The new atmosphere first-year coach David Cutcliffe has brought has energized everyone around the Blue Devils program, including Wood.

"We're excited about the progress we've made," said Wood, who has five career receptions for 32 yards, including one catch for 6 yards this year. "It's a process, and we've bought into that process.

"Anytime you win, it's a positive thing. It's nice to get the payoff for the work you put in."

That payoff means a lot to Wood, who wasn't used to losing after playing at Buford for his father, former coach and current athletics director Dexter Wood.

The Wolves lost only two times during his career - the last one in the Class AA state championship game his senior year in 2004, which snapped a string of three state titles by Buford.

That made for quite a culture shock for Wood as Duke would lose 33 times in its next 35 outings after his arrival.

"Anytime you go through adversity, it's not fun," Wood admitted. "It was a big change coming from a place like Buford that had a tradition of winning. ... But at the same time, I knew (what Duke's program was) going in, and I wanted to be part of turning things around."

And Wood has seen that opportunity by attending graduate school after getting his bachelor's degree in marketing and management studies from Duke last spring.

He is currently working on a one-year master's program in humanities and hopes to go into commercial real estate once he gets that degree next spring.

It is also a reminder that academics were every bit as much of a reason as football when he chose to attend Duke in the first place.

"That was one of the things when I was being recruiting that made Duke so appealing," Wood said. "It was a chance to play football at a high level in the ACC and when you're done playing your four or five years of football, you have your Duke degree as well."

If the thought of his academic success wasn't enough to soothe the pain of so many losses, having somebody close to him as a teammate didn't hurt either.

Sophomore Matt Pridemore is not only a former Buford teammate, he is also his brother-in-law after Wood married Pridemore's sister Erin.

"It certainly gave him a glimpse of what Duke was really like when he came up on a recruiting visit," Wood recalled. "(Losing) was tough on both of us. Of course, I was here a couple years before him. So, I'd been through it a little more."

Wood's family ties to Pridemore illustrates another culture shock he's had to go through at Duke.

His marriage to Pridemore's sister makes him the only married Blue Devil, though he's tried not to let that change his relationship with his teammates.

"I may not go out with the guys probably as much as some," Wood said with a laugh. "But we're all pretty tight on the team, and it was a lot of fun having a lot of the guys at the wedding."