On the basketball court, Burlington City senior D.J. Woodbury is emotional, fired up for every possession, vocal in every team huddle.

The game of basketball, it’s clear, means something to him.

“He competes. He competes every play — and that attitude, it’s not arrogance or anything — that’s just who he is,” said his coach, Paul Collins.

Woodbury said his passion for the sport springs from a lifetime of playing it.

He’s worked hard at it, he’s skilled, and it’s clear: He could have had a future in the sport — beyond high school — if he chose that direction.

D.J. Woodbury (left) collides with Burlington Township's Daniel Thomas in a game last week.
AKIRA SUWA / For the Inquirer
D.J. Woodbury (left) collides with Burlington Township's Daniel Thomas in a game last week.

But that’s what made the recruiting process particularly tricky for Woodbury, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound star athlete for Burlington City who recently signed a letter of intent to play football for Temple.

Make no mistake: For Woodbury, having a choice between football and basketball was a good problem to have.

Some describe the recruiting process as tense or stressful. Woodbury talks about it with a smile.

“I’ve been in Burlington City a lot of years, and I’ve never seen anyone sign a Division I letter,” Woodbury said. “I wanted to be the first one to show these kids, so that they can say: ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’”

Woodbury has, in fact, emerged as a role model not just in his school but in his community — a sign of what’s possible in Burlington City with the right attitude and approach.

Woodbury’s demeanor on a basketball court matches his approach to life.

In the last two years, he’s built himself into an honor student and all-state player in two sports.

He wants to send a message, to show what’s possible when you dedicate yourself to a dream.

“I try to be an example in the classroom and in my community,” Woodbury said. “My family built me for this. I have a lot of supporters who made sure I was ready for this.”

Added Collins: “He shows that you don’t have to be in a private school or a Group 5 or Group 4 school to get noticed. If you’re good enough, they’re going to find you.”

When he talks about why he chose football over basketball, much of it came down to time and place and sheer opportunity.

The offer from Temple was the best he had: a prestigious university — a storied and successful football program — close to home.

Temple made Woodbury an offer in April, and when early signing day rolled around on Dec. 18, Woodbury decided he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity, even if it meant forgoing basketball offers that might have been just around the corner.

“Football and basketball have both been in my life forever — they both have a deep spot in my life — but football was the one. Football presented the opportunity that I really wanted,” Woodbury said.

And as for Temple: “They just showed me the most love — they made sure I knew this was the school for me,” said Woodbury, who also said he was receiving heavy interest from UConn for football. “Every time I went to the games and the school, they all showed me love. And there’s a lot of Jersey players on the team, so I knew a lot of them already. And the coaching staff just made me feel comfortable — they have a great coaching staff.”

Woodbury, a guard for the 11-0 Burlington City basketball team, is slated to play safety at Temple.

It’s a testament to his versatility: He played nearly every position on the field for the Blue Devils this past season, even emerging as the team’s starting quarterback, switching from wide receiver, early in his senior season.

It was a role, he was glad to play.

He’ll do anything, he said, to win.

And he wants to continue to be a leader, in sports and in his community.

That’s especially evident now that Woodbury suddenly finds himself in the final basketball season of his life.

The Blue Devils won the Central Jersey Group 1 title last year and advanced to the state championship game.

He wants to get back. And he wants to win.

And when asked about his approach to reaching that goal, Woodbury described a familiar process.

“We’re putting all our chips in,” he said. “And I know it’s going to take everything: blood sweat and tears. But we’re going to be ready.”