“Charles Woodson is one those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game.” Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said it best after this past week Charles Woodson announced his retirement. Woodson has been elite on every level of football imaginable. Tonight will be his final game at the Coliseum, and it is
time we all reflect on what Charles Woodson brought to the game of football.
In college he became a starter two games into the season. He was then named to the All Big Ten first team by coaches and second team by the media leading his in interceptions and takeaways. He had a memorable game that showcased his ability to show up in the big games. Charles Woodson had two crucial interceptions against the 2nd best team in the nation at that time and rival Ohio State. A strong year by the kid out of Fremont, Ohio, but that was only the beginning. In his sophmore year he was named to the Chevrolet Defensive Player of the year, set a new school record of pass break ups, named to AP First Team All American, and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award. All of that aside though the year we all remember him for is 1997. In 1997 he had many games you can point out as the games that led to him being named the Heisman winner. Against the Michigan State Spartans, Woodson had an acrobatic sideline interception that became a highlight on Sportscenter for the next week. His game against Ohio State in particular was special.He had a 78 yard punt return, a interception in the end zone, and a 37 yard reception that ended up leading to the only offensive score that game for his team. That win became the win his team needed to appear in the Rose Bowl where Woodson again showed up big and got an end zone interception helping to lift the Wolverines over the Cougars and become National Champions. That year he won the Heisman with 268 more votes than Peyton Manning and other college greats Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf to become the only defensive player to ever win the award. Just for a little bit more of how crazy his impact was on the college level, ESPN had him ranked as the 11th best college football player ever. Whether or not you agree with that ranking or not the fact there is even an argument for a defensive back to be considered the 11th best college football player ever is damn impressive.
Woodson then became the 4th overall pick chosen by the Oakland Raiders. In his rookie season he led all defensive backs in tackles with 64, was third in the league in interceptions, had one interception returned for a touchdown and started all 16 games for the Raiders being the first one to do so for the franchise since 1971. He became the AP Rookie of the Year after that great start to what would be a historic career.
In 2002 Charles Woodson became part of one of the most memorable and controversial plays in the history of the game. In a snowy blizzard of a game in the AFC Divisional Round on January 19, 2002, Brady was driving down the field and on a CB blitz Charles Woodson appeared to have stripped the ball from Brady. From most of the nation’s perspective it had been a clear fumble and would have sealed the game in the Raiders’ favor. The refs had overturned the call because what is now known as the Tuck Rule.
In 2003 Woodson and the Raiders managed to reach the Super Bowl where they faced off against their former coach, Jon Gruden. Woodson had appeared to be hobbled during the Super Bowl, but it was not his fault alone in the blowout loss against Tampa Bay and actually managed to grab one interception in the losing effort.
In 2006 Woodson signed on to a 7 year deal with the Packers and was not all that excited to go there at first but has since has since appreciated everything the fans and the organization have done for him. His time with the Packers started a new chapter of his career and many might remember him as a Packer rather than a Raider when it is all said and done.He had more interceptions in his first four years with the Packers than he did in his first 8 years with the Raiders. On November 15, 2009 Woodson became the first player to ever record two forced fumbles, a sack, and an interception within a single game against the Dallas Cowboys. He was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Month 3 times within that season becoming the first defensive player to ever win the award 3 times in a single season. That led to him being named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2010 Aaron Rodgers and the Packers suffered many injuries specifically to there defense but went on a miracle run through the playoffs. Woodson was locking down everyone he faced in the playoffs but ended up breaking his collarbone when diving to defend a pass to Mike Wallace. He gave a speech that everyone on the team said inspired the championship winning effort they put on in the second half. That led to Woodson earning his first and only Super Bowl title as a player.
Soon after that Charles Woodson had to take a step back and play safety to truly utilize his talents. On February 15, 2013 the Packers released Woodson and he signed a contract with the Raiders in what seemed to be the place Woodson wanted to retire. On December 21st, 2015, just 3 days ago, Charles Woodson announced this would be the end of the road for him as he knew his body was giving him the signs that he needed to retire.
Now is where we figure out where we place Woodson in history. Most seem to believe he is one of the 5 best corners to ever play and I personally have him at number 4. Ronnie Lott had this to say about Woodson and whether or not he is the greatest. “Hands down. His body of work has shown that time doesn’t affected him.” It is hard to argue with Mr. Lott’s analysis there as Charles Woodson has been an elite player ever since he stepped into the league and even as he is having his last stand. Charles Woodson will leave with more pro bowls than Deion Sanders and Richard “Night Train” Lane, have more interceptions than Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed, and the only player in history with 60 interceptions and 20 sacks ever. We are seeing a surefire 1st ballot Hall of Famer on his last ride out. Let’s all sit back and acknowledge the greatness standing before us.