Whatever the team needs

Anderson County’s John Michael Woolums (right) shares a laugh with assistant coach C.J. Penny during a recent practice.
Anderson County’s John Michael Woolums rarely stars, always noticed by teammates

By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — Every team needs a John Michael Woolums,

Basketball or banking. Football or the fire station. Track or trucking.

Any team needs someone like John Michael Woolums to be successful.

Not just for the athletic field, but any team in any endeavor needs people like the Anderson County High School senior who is a mainstay in three sports.

“I can’t say enough positive things about John Michael,” says Anderson County High School basketball coach Bryan Hyatt. “He is simply one of the best kids we have ever had come through our program. He is a great teammate, student and person.”

John Michael Woolums shoots a free throw during the Bearcats’ game with Johnson Central on Dec. 29. Despite limited playing time, John Michael hits 78 percent of his charity tosses.

Those are big words about a young man who had played in only nine of the Bearcats’ 20 games through Feb. 3 and had scored just nine points on the season.

You do the math: The single point a game underscores that Woolums isn’t one of the main cogs in the Bearcats’ rotation. He’s also getting one rebound a contest as the Bearcats enter the final weeks of the regular season.

But stats don’t always tell the story.

“I see my role as the coach gives playing time to whoever does better,” John Michael says. “I see my role to push them to get better in practice and to push myself. It’s whatever needs to be done. There has got to be somebody (taking that role).”

It’s the story of putting team above self and a story that is becoming more and more rare each year. John Michael Woolums is happy to be a part of the Bearcat basketball team and does what he can to make the team better.

Those nine points he’s scored? They brought his varsity total to 11, even though his dressed for the varsity three seasons. Before this year, he’d pulled down three rebounds. He has also been part of two district championship teams, a regional runner-up and a regional semifinalist.

“He is always very supportive of his teammates,” remembers former Anderson basketball coach Glen Drury.

It’s doing whatever’s needed to make the Bearcat successful, even if his name usually isn’t in the line score or the newspaper.

John Michael Woolums (right) defends in the post against Collins on Jan. 18. (All photos by John Herndon)

For many, it would have been easy to give up. It would have been easy to give up the hours of practice or long bus rides to away games through the season. But at any Bearcat game, you will see Woolums well down the bench, but clapping in support of his teammates. He says he never considered taking a break between the seasons for football and track, sports for which he has garnered some collegiate interest.

John Michael has been in contact with some smaller in-state schools about the possibility of playing football or throwing for the track teams before embarking on a military career.

“Basketball is a transition sport to me, from football to the track team in the spring,” said Woolums who sees the sport as a way to be part of the team while keeping in shape.

During the fall, John Michael was part of a Bearcat football team that navigated the regular season undefeated before falling to perennial power Highlands in the state playoffs. Out of his tight end spot, John Michael caught three passes for 35 yards.

And perhaps the biggest individual thrill of his career came on Senior Night as the Bearcats were en route to a one-sided win over Madison Southern for a the Class 5A, District 6 title. The call from the sideline was a bit of trickery that left Woolums alone in the end zone.

John Michael Woolums punts during practice for Anderson County in 2018. His work as punter was a factor in the Bearcats’ undefeated regular season.

Quarterback Jagger Gillis saw Woolums alone and fired what became the only touchdown of Woolums’ career. “I was standing there waiting for it. Then when it got to my hands, I was thinking, ‘Don’t drop it now!’” Woolums laughs.

He didn’t, but there was no time to celebrate. “I was very excited about that, but I had to get back for the extra point team,” he remembers.

And he became an above average punter over the last two years. The statistics are not eye-popping — just under 32 yards a kick in 2017 and about 35 in 2018 — but he saved his best for when the Bearcats needed them.

“There is no question John Michael made a major contribution on the football team this past season with his unbelievable punting and blocking on offense.,” Anderson football coach Mark Peach says. “Countless times he flipped field position for us by either punting us out of a bad spot and pinning the other team deep.”

Whatever’s needed, you know.

John Michael’s high school career will end this spring as he will be throwing the discus, the shot and the javelin for Anderson. When there’s a hole in the relay teams, he plugs in on the 4X100 team.

By now you should know it’s whatever is needed for the Anderson County Bearcats.

Through it all, John Michael quietly leads a life grounded in a deep faith instilled by his family. Active at Lawrenceburg’s First Baptist Church, John Michael simply lets his life do the talking about his faith. People notice.

John Michael Woolums does what it takes for his teams.

“I don’t specifically recall anything about John Michael (vocally sharing faith), but I do know that he’s a great kid,” Peach says.

“I never really heard him talk about it but he is truly a wonderful young man,” Drury remembers.

And it’s consistent with what John Michael sees as his role on God’s team. “There are so many tough times in school and in life, really,” he says. “There is only so much you can do to help yourself. Then you leave it to God and He will take care of it.”

Woolums occasionally leads the Bearcat football  team in prayer and is glad for the tone of those times together. “After every game, we prayed,” Woolums says. “We never prayed thanking God for the win. We pray thanking that he kept us safe and that He gave us the power to play that game.”

John Michael Woolums might be an example of what Paul was talking about in I Thessalonians 4, where he says, “And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Just by living as Christ wants, John Michael Woolums has earned the respect of those around him the most.

Hyatt, his basketball coach, has noticed. “I told my wife recently if my son turns out like John Michael,” he says, “then we have a done a great job as parents.”

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