A Legacy Remembered
BERKELEY – When Cal's football players walk to the team dining room inside the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, they pass by a memorial on the wall in a hallway dedicated to former standout tight end Brent Woodall.
That display means a little more to current Golden Bear tight end Gavin Reinwald.
Reinwald is the current honoree of the Brent Woodall Memorial Scholarship, created by family and friends after Woodall tragically perished in the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Woodall was working for investment banking firm Keefe, Bruyette and Woods on the 86th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower when a hijacked plane crashed into the building, killing Woodall and 66 of his coworkers, among others.
The scholarship was created within weeks of the attack, and Reinwald carries on Woodall's legacy while he is a member of the Golden Bears.
"It's definitely a huge honor," Reinwald said. "His story is amazing. My name is in honor of the scholarship, which I think is amazing."
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks, something that hasn't been lost on Reinwald. He was 2 on that tragic day, but as he's learned more about the attacks and Woodall, it's had more and more of an impact on him.
"It's a tough day every year when it comes around, but especially now that it's been 20 years," Reinwald said. "I've been reflecting on it a lot lately. I've been watching some documentaries. It's really emotional."
Woodall excelled in both football and baseball at Cal. He was on the 1991 team that demolished Clemson in the Citrus Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the country. He was a closer on the baseball team, helping the Bears reach the College World Series in 1992. Woodall was picked in the 17th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs and pitched for two seasons in the minors before moving on to a career in banking.
"Woody was the athlete who stepped on campus and do whatever he wanted," said former Cal quarterback and current radio analyst Mike Pawlawski, who was Woodall's teammate, and roommate for one year. "He was the valedictorian of his high school. He was super smart. He could play any position. He could throw the ball like quarterback. He was just skilled across the board. He just knew he was going to win."
Woodall's wife, Tracy, was pregnant with their daughter, Pierce, when the attacks took place. Pierce is now a sophomore on the volleyball team at Columbia, where Tracy also played.
"He was such a good teammate," Pawlawski said. "He was kind of the All-American boy. He was the kid that every mom wanted their daughter to meet – good looking, star athlete, valedictorian. He was a great roommate and so easy to get along with."
The sports world, as well as the rest of the world, came to a halt in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. The Pac-10 Conference immediately postponed all football games scheduled for that weekend, and the Bears ended up making up their regularly scheduled game at Rutgers on the final weekend of the season. Cal entered the game with a record of 0-10 and ended up going out with a victory, defeating the Scarlet Knights 20-10 on Nov. 23.
"It threw everything in a whole new perspective," said longtime Cal play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey. "The emotions were so different in so many ways. To play that game at Rutgers in November, nearly three months after the incident occurred, was still very traumatic."