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A more reliable Trey Womack takes on bigger role in Virginia secondary

When first-year Coach Mike London took over the Virginia football program last winter, he met individually with each player on the roster and the message was not always the same. Take fifth-year senior strong safety Trey Womack, for instance. Womack was one of a group of player to whom London gave an ultimatum: Get with it, or get out.

“I had the conversation with him that, ‘Hey listen, you know, with a new staff, what I'm thinking about doing is perhaps not bringing you back. But I'm going to allow you to go through spring practice and see how you do. There's some classroom things, some leadership things that I'm looking to see if you're worth bringing back, that you can add to our team,’” London said.

These days, according to fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica, Womack has “really actually been the model guy, the model teammate and player that Coach London wants to have on his new team.”

Womack’s transformation put him in position to be the Cavaliers’ go-to option at strong safety when junior Rodney McLeod went down with a left knee injury. McLeod did not play Saturday night in Virginia’s season-opening win against Richmond, and although London said McLeod will travel with the team to Southern California for this weekend’s game and that it is “likely” he’ll be available to play, the hunch here is that he sits out once again.

As for Womack, he played in 11 games in 2009, mostly on special teams. In fact, prior to this season, Womack primarily has served as a special teams player during his collegiate career. In his first defensive start Saturday night against Richmond, Womack tallied three tackles and a pass deflection. It is unclear when McLeod will be able to return to the lineup, but London feels he can count on Womack to hold steady at the position.

“Trey did an outstanding job of being reliable, of being dependable, during spring practice playing fast and special teams roles,” London said. “With Rodney's situation, stepping in and being a guy that, now he's got a college game start under his belt. He made a believer out of me.

“And I told him, I said, ‘Listen, you were just a decision away from me not asking you back, but you made me eat my words, because you did all the things and some in order to put yourself in the position to be where you are right now.’ And I appreciate him and told him I loved him, because that kind of resolve is going to take him far, not just in the football world, but in life after football.”

By Steve Yanda  |  September 8, 2010; 7:58 AM ET
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