Woodstock Students Make It Pro

 Austin B.

Staff Writer

 How much difference could Woodstock High School, a school relatively unknown in the United States, really make in the lives of its students? Eric Hurd, Bruce Miller, and Nick Markakis, who are all prominent athletes today, all walked the same halls today’s students walk, sat in the same desks present students sit in, and had some of the same teachers that still teach at WHS. They started their careers in the same place that current students do, and now they are professionals. Many of Woodstock’s athletes consider these former WHS students to be an even greater inspiration than most other athletes. Woodstock’s students look up to Hurd, Miller, and Markakis specifically, because they are living the lives that our school’s talented athletes have the dream, and potential, to achieve.

Eric Hurd is an Olympic athlete who was born on May 19th, 1986, in Marietta. Social studies teacher Mrs. Krista Webb, who taught Hurd, says, “He was a good student. I taught him US History, and he enjoyed the subject. When he was in high school, he had long curly hair. People called him Willow because of the movie. He drove an old VW Van, and he always had his kayak strapped to the top because he kayaked after school. He was very dedicated. He told us all that he’d be in the Olympics one day.” Hurd graduated from Woodstock High School in 2004. He later went on to compete in the doubles canoeing event of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Eric’s father, Mike Hurd, was a significant factor in his future. Mike would travel every other weekend to North Carolina with Mike Larimer, his canoeing partner, to practice on rougher rivers. Mike Larimer’s son, Jeff Larimer, would ultimately become Eric’s canoeing partner.  Eventually, Eric moved to North Carolina so he could train at the U.S. Whitewater Center, which had been classified as the roughest racecourse built in the country.

While at a training camp in 1999, Hurd developed the nickname “Butter.” He was given this name by the older athletes at the camp. At the Junior World Championships, a competition for young canoeing athletes, it became his worldwide name when, after claiming 15th place in the “18 and under” category, his coach approached him and said, “I guess you’ve got to be Butter, because you’re on a roll.” In the 2012 Olympics, Hurd, along with his partner, Larimer, claimed 12th place, which would not qualify them to move on in the competition, despite their great efforts. Hurd is honored for making it to the most prestigious stage, the Olympics. Just like Nick Markakis and Bruce Miller, he never gave up his dream.

Another of Woodstock’s star alumni is Bruce Miller, who played a sport with a little more contact.  Miller was born on August 6th, 1987, in Canton, Georgia. Miller was a linebacker and tight end for the Woodstock Wolverines, and he was a very tough player who enjoyed a hit. Coach Brent Budde, who coached Miller at Woodstock, proved this point by stating, “Bruce had a really good engine, and he was talented.”  Miller helped to lead WHS to its second playoff appearance in 2002. He was awarded the linebacker of the year by the Cherokee County Gridiron Club while in high school for his ability to slam people on the ground and break up some plays while doing so. However, Miller not only had a great future in football when he came out of Woodstock in 2005, he also had a great future in basketball and baseball, because he lettered in those sports as well. Miller was an all-around athlete with many different options, and football was his choice.

Miller attended the University of Central Florida, and while in college, he was switched to defensive end. He was extremely talented at this position, and he proved that to every quarterback who was not on his team! By the end of his college career, Miller had left an astounding impact. He had intercepted three passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns, and he led college players with 35.5 sacks in his four years at the school. Also, he received the award for being the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, not once, but twice, in 2009 and 2010.

 Following college, Miller was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 7th round, 211 overall. The 49ers liked his ability on defense, but they pictured him being on the other side of the ball. His size, being 6’2” and 248 pounds, contributed to their decision to make him a fullback, as it would create a powerful runner that the 49ers’ offense needed. In a recent conference call, Miller stated, “I’m just excited for the opportunity to play in the NFL.” Miller made his NFL debut on September 11, 2011, playing on special teams. He made his first NFL start on September 25, 2011, playing his new position. Miller became accustomed to playing fullback quickly. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last season for his magnificent playing ability at his position, and in his first season as a 49er, his team made it to the playoffs and made it all the way to the NFC championship game. His success has created much more hope for current Woodstock sports players. Jeff Davis, WHS’s well-known senior tackle, says, “It makes me more confident, because people from my school made it pro.” Miller is an inspiration to, not only WHS football players, but many other students as well.

Nick Markakis is another person who, like Hurd and Miller, is an inspiration to many people. Markakis was born on November 17th, 1983, in Glen Cove, New York, before his family moved to Woodstock. Mrs. Webb states, “Nick was crazy in high school. I taught him US History, and he was one of the most energetic young people I’ve ever taught. He had a very care-free attitude, very much a free spirit.”  She also stated that she believed he was so successful because he was playing for both himself, and for Taylor, his best friend who passed away while they were in high school. While in high school, Markakis became the best left handed pitcher on the team. However, based on Markakis’s high school career, Coach Scott Krug did not expect him to make it pro, saying, “He was talented, but very small.” After graduating high school in 2001, Markakis attended college at Young Harris College, located in the mountains of northeast Georgia.

While in college, Markakis played right field and also pitched for the baseball team. As a pitcher at YHC, he earned 12 wins, no losses, and could throw a 96 mile per hour fastball. However, when Markakis was drafted, the Orioles preferred to make use of his great hitting and fielding abilities, rather than take another pitcher, so Markakis filled the spot. He was drafted in 2003 by the Baltimore Orioles as a 1st round pick, 7th overall.

Markakis made his MLB debut on April 3, 2006, and started his career by showing his great discipline at the plate. In his first three plate appearances, he earned three walks. However, when he left home plate in the majors for the fourth time, he got to trot the bases because he hit a 400 foot homerun! Johnathon Kelley, sophomore and varsity baseball prospect, hopes to achieve the same, saying, “Nick’s success story makes me believe I will be as lucky as him one day.”  Some of Markakis’s other career highlights are that he played in the 2004 Olympics, and he received many honorable awards, such as the Golden Glove Award in 2011. So far Markakis’s career has been effective in showing Woodstock’s talent, and we can expect many more great achievements from this talented athlete.

Woodstock High School has produced some very talented professional athletes in these three men, and, because of the quality of the athletic department, more WHS players are expected to make it to the professional level. Eric Hurd, Bruce Miller, and Nick Markakis all came from Woodstock, and because of their success, it gives new hopes to our current players, who have the potential to do what these three men did, and make it as professional athletes.

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