Jeff Woods and I have been best friends since the second grade growing up in Alpharetta, GA.
In football, I was the Quarterback and Jeff was the running back.
In little league basketball, Jeff was the point guard and I was the bench warmer.
In baseball, Jeff was the pitcher and I was the second baseman. If there had been anyone around to scream, “You Da Man” in baseball games back when we were growing up, that person would have screamed it when Jeff launched another homerun. He once hit five in one day.
Jeff was a legend by the time he was 12. He started shaving when he was 9, and in the eighth grade he fought the school bully, Greg Darnell – who was two years older than us to a draw. It was a moral victory for us wimps that Greg had a field day picking on.
As Jeff got older, he developed an interest in seeing how fast he could drive a car. When he turned 16, his parents had lost their minds and bought him a brand new Jeep Wrangler. The rest is speeding ticket history.
Parents warned their children not to get in a car with Jeff Woods, especially if Jeff was behind the wheel. I even remember my parents telling me a time or two that Jeff could ride anywhere with me but I was not allowed to ride with him.
One night we had a football game and it was an away game. My school, Milton High School, was playing South Forsyth High School in Cumming, GA which is the county seat of Forsyth County.
If I remember correctly, I had about 60 rushing yards and I passed for 4 completions out of 7 attempts for the night, Jeff scored 2 touchdowns and we won 35-0.
After the game, I did not have a ride home, so Jeff gave me a ride back. Jeff could do Cumming to Alpharetta in about 200 telephone poles a minute. The road curved for the first couple of miles, so Jeff kept it in double digits.
Then, however, came “The Strip”, commonly known as a straight road starting from a farm supply store and ending at the First United Methodist Church right in the heart of downtown Alpharetta.
We hit “The Strip”, and Jeff floored it.
The Georgia patrolman who pulled him over just outside the Alpharetta City limit sign said, “Son, did you know that you were going 108 miles per hour?”
“No, I wasn’t” said Jeff. “I top-ended at 127”.
A charge of merely going 108 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour speed zone was nothing to the streak of lightening we knew as Jeff Woods.
So, I’ll keep this short. It has been 18 years since that happened. I have graduated from college with a Bachelors Degree in Bible, I have a Masters Degree in Sacred Literature, I am finishing up my Masters of Divinity at Phillips Theological Seminary and working on a Certificate in Theology and Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary (yes, I am an Ivy League man), and I am now a Pastor. Jeff went on to be the starting fullback at Southern Methodist University and then went into coaching college football as a strength coach at Florida State University and at FAMU. He now has a business in Atlanta helping high school athletes to develop their speed and strength to help them earn college athletic scholarships.
Jeff and I talk on the phone once a week and we chat just about everyday on Facebook. In 2008, we met for lunch and we decided to play golf after lunch. We played at the little beat up par 3 golf course in downtown Alpharetta (also known as Alpharetta National), which sits a wedge shot from “The Strip”. We hit our shots on a downhill par three.
There was a sign near the cart path that read: “Slow, Steep Grade”.
But I could make Richard Petty and Rusty Wallace scream for their mothers in a golf cart.
I floored it… Full bore, we tooled down the steep grade!
Jeff screamed, “Slow Down! You’re going to turn this thing over! I hit the brakes and savored the moment. I had tugged on Superman’s Cape. I had taken the mask off the ole Lone Ranger.
I had frightened Jeff Woods in a motorized vehicle.
Years after the encounter with the Georgia Patrolman after our stomping of the little South Forsyth High School Football team, I got revenge on my best friend.
I was a blur to my very own self. I was the wind that day!
“You’re a fool for driving like this, Scott! Didn’t they teach you anything at seminary about obeying the law? Jeff, slowed by maturity, had said.
These are the moments in life that we are to relish. We need to thank God everyday for putting people in our lives that we can enjoy life with. I truly thank God for my friendship with Jeff.
God Bless and GO CATS!
Rev. Scott Murphy is the Pastor at the First Christian Church in Russellville