It was a pleasant mid-October afternoon at Marist College. There was a slight chill in the air, the seats were filling up, and the hype music was blasting.
It was a Saturday. A college football Saturday. The Marist Red Foxes were coming off a bye week and were hosting the 21st ranked team in the nation, the Dartmouth College Big Green.
The game was over from the beginning. Dartmouth took the lead early in the first quarter and never looked back, and won by a score of 49-7.
You would think a team would look dejected while being down 42 points, wouldn’t you? Not on October 19th.
Every player on the Marist sideline looked eager. They wanted time on the field. One player in particular wanted it so much more.
Wookdong Kim plays college football. Linebacker, to be specific. Kim is from Tennessee, and is the son of two South Korean parents.
But that doesn’t define him.
Sports have always been a part of Kim’s life. “My parents didn’t just want me sitting around and playing video games,” said Kim. “They wanted me to play sports, and put me in many club sports.”
After juggling many sports as a kid, Kim made the commitment to football in the seventh grade.
“My family has always supported me playing sports,” said Kim. “I wrestled, played basketball, soccer, and was also on the track and field team.”
“He will give you all he has,” said Nicholas Garrett, Kim’s high school coach. “He is the definition of a football player through and through.”
Kim went to high school at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. “It’s a college prep military boarding school that instills necessary core values through military applications and rigorous academics,” said Garrett.
“Wookdong was relentless towards his academics just as much to his playing abilities and skill sets on the field,” said Garrett.
Kim, a freshman at Marist is already accustomed to the tough schedule that comes with being a student-athlete. His schedule in high school sounds similar to that of a college athlete.
“Every day, we woke up and cleaned our rooms, then ate, then had class,” said Kim. “After class, then we had practice. It was difficult to win games at first.”
Kim explained that because it was a military school, the team never really had great chemistry. “People were coming and going. Kids were sent there and others were kicked out,” said Kim. “The chemistry wasn’t working even with the talent we had until my senior year, when we finally did a good job.”
Garrett credited the team’s success during the 2018 season to Kim. “Wookdong was a team captain in 2018, voted on by the staff and his peers,” said Garrett. “Every player listened to the WOOOOOK!”
Kim committed to Marist due to the ability to play football at the Division I level, and the high academic standards he holds himself to.
“Both Jacksonville [University] and Marist looked at me in high school,” said Kim. “The others were from D-II and D-III. Marist was actually my last [offer].”
Kim’s deciding factor to come to Marist was the academic integrity of the school. He has always been an excellent student.
“While [at Riverside], Wookdong had over a 3.8 [GPA],” said Garrett.
Kim’s leadership and skill set were what attracted Marist to scout him his senior year. Head coach Jim Parady believed he was a match for his program.
“He’s so humble,” said Parady. “We also got to look at his achievements, and we got to know him as a person. We felt that he was a perfect match for our program.”
Parady believes that Kim will be useful at multiple positions, instead of just restricting him to play linebacker. “With his body type, strength, and quickness, we can plug him into different spots depending on who we’re playing,” said Parady.
“I played a little bit of every position in middle school, and when I started in high school, I played on the defensive line,” said Kim. “Senior year, I transferred over to linebacker because that’s what colleges were recruiting.”
Even with all of the success in the sport that Kim has had, he isn’t planning for it to be a part of his future. He is a business administration major, with concentrations in both international business and finance.
“Of course, the next level would be really, really great,” said Kim. “I’m still going to grind it out here, but I’m not really shooting for that. I’m going to be realistic; I have to focus on my academics too.”
So, what does he see in his future?
“I just want to travel,” said Kim. “I want to go on business trips and free plane rides, and just visit many different places across the world.”
In other words, he wants to be a business executive. He wants to have those opportunities that come along with international business.
Coaches Garrett and Parady both know the type of person that Kim really is. His willingness to do the work and his competitiveness both on the field and in the classroom put him in a great position to succeed.
“I think of him as a competitive person, meaning he’s competitive in both the classroom and on the field,” said Parady. “We believe that combination sets him up to be competitive and successful in life as well.”
Garrett has a similar belief in his former player. He believes Kim will continue to work as hard, if not harder than, everyone else to get where he wants to end up.
“He is just that good,” said Garrett. “I will never coach another Wookdong Kim again.”
Edited By: Sean McGee
Photo From: Wookdong Kim’s Instagram