St. John Bosco’s Peyton Woodyard leads by example, just like his dad

Mater Dei running back Nathaniel Frazier tries to elude St. John Bosco defensive back Peyton Woodyard in a game last season.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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Eighth in a series of stories profiling top high school football players by position. Today, Peyton Woodyard, St. John Bosco defensive back.

Whether you are meeting Peyton Woodyard for the first time or the fourth time, he’s always the most polite, respectful teenager anyone can imagine. From saying “yes sir” or “no sir” to always thanking you for greeting him, he displays five-star character.

Then there’s his physical skills playing safety for defending Southern Section Division 1 champion Bellflower St. John Bosco. He’s 6 feet 3, 200 pounds and possesses the versatility to tackle or cover with equal effectiveness. It’s no wonder that recruiters from SEC powers Georgia and Alabama came to California to lure him. Originally committed to Georgia, he recently changed to Alabama.


“Always respect people and carry yourself the right way, especially when no one is watching,” Woodyard says.

Many life lessons come from his father, Gerald, who was born in Mobile, Ala., played football for the legendary George Allen at Long Beach State and has spent 29 years working for the Los Angeles Police Department, rising to South Bureau’s deputy chief commanding officer operations, making him one of the highest ranking Black officers.

Gerald started coaching his youngest child at age 5. He became Coach G or Mr. Woodyard to Peyton’s friends. Peyton doesn’t call him coach or chief. He calls him Dad.

St. John Bosco safety Peyton Woodyard poses for a photo in the team's weight room.
St. John Bosco safety Peyton Woodyard has learned valuable lessons from his father, Gerald, an LAPD deputy chief.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

“Discipline and determination — he’s done a great job displaying that my whole life and it passed on from my brother, and I feel I have to live up to that and be determined in everything I do,” Peyton said. “Stay on the right track and keep doing the right things.”

Peyton and his older brother, AJ, who has joined the LAPD, got to be with their father at work growing up and volunteered for events to give back to the community. Sports has been big in the family. AJ played baseball in high school, sister Lauren played soccer at Nevada and their mother, Nora, played softball in college.

Gerald says, “Athletes make the best cops, because it’s a team.”

Peyton has no intention of going into law enforcement. He has his focus on football and learning about business.

He has a gift for being able to tune out distractions and focus, whether that be in the classroom, the weight room or on the field.


“Make sure you’re in the moment,” he said.

The way he carries himself matters.

“I feel people feed off energy you give out. It’s important to be positive,” he said.

His work ethic is well known. He’ll wake up at 6 a.m. and head to the gym. He’ll lift weights or engage in speed training when others are playing video games. He’ll do push-ups or sit-ups in his room before he sleeps. He committed to Alabama not to have three or four years of fun. Fun is good, but he said, “It’s business. You have only one opportunity to do what you have to do.”

St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro is excited to see the impact Woodyard will make in his senior season before heading off to college in January.

“Peyton is one of the most talented and intelligent football players to ever play in our program,” Negro said. “His skill set as a safety allows us to be so versatile on defense. I expect Peyton to have a monstrous season as the leader of our secondary unit.”

His father learned about hard work at Long Beach State, watching Allen on the field showing energy and excitement while coaching in his 70s.

The Southland high school football season opens Aug. 17-19 with hundreds of games across the Southland. Here’s a look at defensive backs to watch this fall.

Aug. 13, 2023

“He’d show us old films of legends,” Gerald said. “That’s where I learned about real leadership. It’s not just words but your actions.”

Make no mistake about what Gerald enjoys most. Friday nights are for cheering on his son.

“I’m just like every dad who wants best for his kids,” he said.

And his youngest appreciates his contributions.

Here is the Los Angeles Times’ nine-part series on top returning high school football players.

Aug. 14, 2023

“It’s been cool,” Peyton said. “I’m most definitely proud.”

Monday: Chaminade kicker Ryon Sayeri.