It was the start to achieving a dream when Maurice “Mo” Woodard received a call from the Elms Horn Fighting Pirates in Germany to play professional football. After falling short during several NFL mini camps, including his hometown team, the Kansas City Chiefs, Woodard would take this opportunity with the Fighting Pirates, still not knowing what his future would hold.

“I never thought about the overseas life,” said Woodard. “I always thought it was NFL, all or nothing,” he continued.

Once in Germany, the then 23 year-old football lover would instantly become a fan favorite and also set the franchise single game receiving record, with 8 receptions for 228 receiving yards.

“After that game, I had more teams in Europe wanting to sign me,” said Woodard.

Europe wouldn’t be the only country looking into Mo for his athletic abilities; the NFL was also making contact, again.

“My mindset was to go play a few games, get some film, and go back to the United States, but after playing and living overseas where the people and culture were so welcoming, I said to myself that this is where I was going to stay and pursue my career,” added the football star.

However, Woodard would still face tough times. After a great first season with the Elms Horn Fighting Pirates, Mo says he signed a Canadian League contract, which was short lived after weeks of camp and preseason.

“At first I was hurt when I was released. You might think it’s a good situation, when really it’s not,” said Woodard.

Finding himself back in Germany, Woodard would use his second season with the Elmshorn Fighting Pirates as a platform to better craft his skills to advance his professional football career. “I loved my time in Elmshorn and signing back for the second season I was really grateful for the opportunity to come back to Germany”.  Mo says “Elmshorn’s organization was very family oriented and welcoming that is still like my second family away from home.” Being in Europe gave Mo a global platform for networking with coaches; which lead him to enter the draft with the Chinese Arena Football League. He was drafted to be a wide receiver with the Dalian Dragon Kings.

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The Chinese league (CAFL) came with new rules for Mo to adapt to however it was a challenge he says he was up for and ready to tackle. He says he had to readjust his running routes and time plays faster, as playing arena football meant lesser ground to cover.

“It was only four of us that had never played areana football,” said Woodard. “It was a huge adjustment and it ended up working out for my good.”

With sold out games and packed arenas, Mo would become a breakout star for the CAFL as well. He ended the season leading the league in returns for touchdowns and an overall good experience. Mo stated “The CAFL was a really 1st class experience and very organized and I feel that this is where I will continue the rest of my professional career”.

He recalls one game where he realized he was doing what he loved. He says he had just made a catch when the commentators said his name, following a sentence in Chinese.

“I didn’t realize it until I got back to the huddle. Tears just started rolling down my eyes,” said Woodard. “I had my visor on, so nobody could see me,” he added with a laugh.

From exploring different parts of the country, to learning bit of the language, to even walking along the Great Wall, he reflects on his time in China and how his football career has allowed him the opportunity to see parts of the world. In china this was a 6 city tour where mo had a chance to live in 6 different cities for a week.

When asked what kept him motivated, as his journey to professional football was not always easy, he responded with those who he surrounded himself with to include his family and friends.

“My mom and dad always instilled in me to never give up, to keep pushing, and to never let anyone else tell you-you can’t do something.” He added.

As he prepares for the next season, Mo continues to strive and chase greatness.

“I’m just a kid from Kansas City, MO who would have never thought I would be playing football overseas,” said Woodard. “With God on your side, everything is going to fall in place. If it’s worth it, it’s definitely worth you continuing to push.”

 

The next season is scheduled to start in the fall of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

W|  Toni Marie Talley

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