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December 28, 2008MORE: U.S. Army All-American Bowl coverage | Army AA Bowl rosters | More all-star coverage
SAN ANTONIO - When Cierre Wood went through the recruiting process he wanted to pick a school not only for its football tradition but also for what will happen after he's done playing sports.
That's why he picked Notre Dame, and that's why he believes leaving southern California for South Bend was the smart move.
"I felt it was a good decision for me not just in a football aspect but also a life aspect," said Wood, a 6-foot, 195-pound five-star running back from Santa Clara (Calif.) Oxnard.
"When you're an athlete, you should have more than just football to rely on. You should have also a Plan B and that's why I chose Notre Dame. They have one of the strongest alumni systems out there. I wanted to be connected that way and be set for life after football."
UCLA was the school Wood have committed to if not for Notre Dame, which has also picked up pledges from two other players from the state of California - Inglewood wide receiver Shaquelle Evans, who's also at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl - and San Bernardino Cajon defensive back Marlon Pollard.
Some commits choose to push other players to a certain school but Wood, one of the top 11 players at the loaded Football University camp last summer in Paisley, Fla., said that wasn't his style. He wanted Evans, who also considered UCLA, Southern Cal and many others, to make his own decision.
"I met (Evans) somewhere, and he said he was looking at places, and what not and he said he was considering Notre Dame," Wood said. "I didn't talk to anybody about going there. Everybody is like, 'Talk to this guy,' but that's not my thing.
"If they want to go, they want to go. If they don't, they don't. He chose it on his own. He saw what I saw and what everybody else goes there and wants to go there sees so he picked it on his own. It's a good thing that he's going there."
Another average season at Notre Dame and concerns about coach Charlie Weis' future has done nothing to dissuade Wood from his decision. If anything, it has invigorated him and reinforced his choice.
"It's like (Notre Dame is) the nerd that everybody is picking on," Wood said. "Basically, I want to go there and not just me but everybody else who is coming too, we want to go there and change things around. We want to be known as the class that changed things around."
Wood finished his senior season with 1,622 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 143 carries. He added eight catches for 182 yards and four scores and returned a kickoff for a TD. Wood ran for 2,612 yards and 34 touchdowns in his junior year.