Sometimes, a person is born who just seems to have “it.”
That “it” factor can best be described as having the capacity and capability to find success in whatever endeavor one aspires to.
You know just by being in the person’s presence that he or she is going to do very well in life.
Charles Woodson is such a person.
Woodson was born to succeed and he has not squandered his talent and ability.
An athlete seemingly from the womb, Woodson’s talent shone brightly on the field in high school, college and the NFL.
He has continued to do well in retirement and is an example to young athletes of who to aspire to.
This is the story of Charles Woodson.
— Dorsey Art (@Dorseyart) September 16, 2021
Early life and high school
Charles Cameron Woodson was born on October 7, 1976 in Fremont, Ohio.
By the time he reached Ross High School in Fremont, Woodson was a noticeably gifted athlete.
In four years at Ross, Woodson could be found on nearly every field, court and athletic surface at Ross.
He was on the school’s football, basketball and track teams.
As a senior, Woodson was outstanding.
His offensive skills stood out and reverberated throughout the country.
He was named a Parade Magazine High School All-American, Ohio Mr. Football, and a USA Today All-American after racking up 2,028 rushing yards and 230 total points.
By the time Woodson’s football career at Ross ended, he was the program’s all-time leader in rushing yards with 3,861 and scoring with 466.
Street named after Charles Woodson behind his high school football field pic.twitter.com/50eNBE4wcg
— SirSchueler (@SirSchueler) December 22, 2014
It would be an understatement to say that Woodson had his pick of colleges to attend.
Most schools recruited him to play running back for their respective football teams.
However, the University of Michigan wanted him to play defensive back and return punts.
Woodson spurned the in-state schools and chose to matriculate to Michigan and begin the next chapter of his storied athletic career.
The Michigan program struck gold by signing Woodson.
By the second game of his Wolverines career he was named a starter.
Woodson would continue to make starts in 34 straight games.
As a Freshman in 1995, he helped Michigan to a 9-4 record.
During a game against #2 ranked Ohio State that year, Woodson had two interceptions.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 27, 2016
That season, Woodson led the team with five picks and eight total take-aways.
Woodson was named a First-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches and selected as the Big-Ten’s Freshman of the Year.
In 1996, Woodson continued to show why he was one of the best players in college football.
That year he had no less than 15 pass breakups, which set a program record.
Woodson also had four interceptions, 10 receptions for 139 yards and a score and six rushing attempts for 152 yards and another score.
As the Wolverines wrapped their 8-4 season, the awards began to pile up for Woodson.
He was named the Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year, an AP First-team All-American and All-Big Ten First-team.
Additionally, he was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back.
1997 would become one of the most memorable seasons in Wolverine history.
In coach Lloyd Carr’s third season, the team had a perfect 12-0 regular season.
During a game against rival Michigan State, Woodson made a spectacular one-handed interception near the sideline.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 17, 2014
Against Ohio State, he was locked in.
That day Woodson had an end zone interception, a punt return for a touchdown and a 37-yard reception that led to Michigan’s only offensive score of the game.
Once the game concluded, Woodson told the media that he had tried to do former Wolverine Desmond Howard’s famed “Heisman pose” after his score, but was unsuccessful when he was mobbed by teammates.
Based on Michigan’s win over OSU, the Wolverines advanced to play Ryan Leaf and the Washington State Cougars in the Rose Bowl.
The game would become a classic.
Both teams were knotted at 7 after two quarters.
At one point during the first half, Woodson intercepted a Leaf pass attempt in the end zone.
The teams continued to battle in the second half until Michigan finally pulled away with a 21-16 victory.
The program was awarded a share of the national title along with Nebraska.
Woodson’s year was one for the ages.
After the season, he was overcome with an avalanche of honors and awards.
These included: All-Big Ten First-Team, First-Team All American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Chevrolet Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Jim Thorpe Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the best defensive player in college.
Woodson had seven interceptions for the year, 283 punt return yards with a touchdown, 11 receptions for 231 yards and two scores and 15 rushing yards with another touchdown.
The biggest award for Woodson would come next.
With 282 more votes than runner-up Peyton Manning of Tennessee, Woodson was named the Heisman Trophy winner for 1997.
Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997, and is still the only defensive player to win the award. pic.twitter.com/GYGojvtQsZ
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) May 26, 2017
He was the third Heisman winner in program history after Tom Harmon and Howard.
Woodson was the first (and still only) primarily defensive player to win the award.
Woodson finished his Wolverine career with 18 total picks along with 30 passes defended.
He would become a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.
First-round pick by the Raiders
Before the 1998 NFL season began, the Oakland Raiders hired Jon Gruden as their new head football coach.
The fire-breathing coach with personality for miles would be a perfect fit for a ragtag band of misfits.
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) October 22, 2019
One of the first team-building acts Gruden assisted with was selecting Woodson with the fourth overall pick of the ‘98 NFL Draft.
“We were elated when he was there for us [in the draft]. It went Peyton Manning, then Ryan Leaf, then Andre Wadsworth, then us. Charles could play dime linebacker. Nickel. Corner. Safety. And all in the same series. He was one of the most decorated defensive players in the history of the draft. Yeah, we were excited. And he was a magnet, just attracting everybody to him. He enjoyed it. There were times we had to reel him in,” Gruden commented in August of 2021.
Once he arrived in Oakland, Woodson was shown the ropes by some legendary Raiders.
“Willie Brown was a guy who made sure you understood what it meant to be a Raider,” Woodson said. “The first thing he would tell us, ‘There are 31 teams in the NFL, and there’s the Raiders.’ That’s the kind of mentality you picked up when you got there. George Atkinson, Cliff Branch. Those guys made me know early on what I had to bring to the table — be a tough, physical, fast football player.”
In Gruden and Woodson’s first year in Oakland, the team finished at .500 with an 8-8 record.
Woodson didn’t miss a beat transitioning from college to the pros.
He collected five interceptions for 118 yards and a score.
Woodson also had two forced fumbles and 64 total tackles.
He started all 16 games, the first time a Raider rookie had done so since 1971.
His play that year was more than enough for the voters and Woodson was selected as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He was also selected for his first Pro Bowl.
In 1999, Woodson had 61 total tackles, 15 passes defended, one pick for 15 yards and a touchdown and a fumble recovery.
He also had his first NFL catch for a 19 yard gain against San Diego.
Woodson was voted to his second Pro Bowl and was selected as a First-team All-Pro.
Oakland finished 8-8 for the second consecutive season.
2000, 2001 and the “Tuck Rule” game
Oakland finally got off the mat in 2000 by virtue of a 12-4 record.
Woodson helped by hauling in four interceptions for 36 yards and adding 79 total tackles.
He was named to Sports Illustrated’s All-Pro team after the season as well as his third Pro Bowl.
The Raiders buried the Dolphins 17-0 in the Divisional playoffs and then lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship 16-3.
In 2001, Woodson played in every game of the season for the fourth consecutive year.
Among his highlights for the season were two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, one blocked field goal and 53 combined tackles.
‘01 was the first year Woodson began returning punts as well.
He would have four returns for 47 yards on the season.
The Raiders made the postseason with a 10-6 record.
They took down the Jets in the Wild Card round and then were defeated by Woodson’s former Michigan teammate Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Divisional round.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 21, 2014
During the game in snowy New England, Oakland was nursing a three-point lead.
The Pats were driving for a score when Woodson came on a blitz and crushed Brady.
The quarterback was attempting to pass and appeared to fumble due to Woodson’s hit.
However, after a long review, the officials stunned the nation when they announced that Woodson had effectively only halted Brady’s pass.
According to the zebras, Brady was attempting to “tuck” the ball back into his body.
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) December 8, 2015
Therefore, the play was ruled an incomplete pass instead of a fumble.
Instead of the Raiders getting the ball back and icing the game (pun intended), Brady took control.
New England kicked a game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Pats kicker Adam Vinatieri booted the ball from 23 yards out to win the contest.
2002 and a Super Bowl appearance
As 2002 dawned, Oakland was involved in one of the oddest trades in league history.
Tampa Bay wanted a new coach to replace Tony Dungy and Gruden was on their very short list.
Raiders owner Al Davis wasn’t sure Gruden was worth big money and he disliked the coach’s offense scheme.
With that, the Raiders and Bucs essentially made a trade, sending Gruden to Tampa and netting a slew of draft picks.
Bill Callahan, Gruden’s offensive coordinator, took over in Oakland.
With basically the same cast from the previous year, the Raiders had a successful season.
Woodson sustained a serious injury in the second game of the season.
Because of the injury, he missed a significant portion of the year.
Meanwhile, the franchise went 11-5, beat the Jets in the Divisional round and the Titans in the AFC Championship game.
Then, it was on to Super Bowl XXXVII to face their former coach, Gruden.
The game was a blowout from the start.
This was the first play of Super Bowl XXXVII. Safe to say that both Mike Alstott and Charles Woodson would be checked for a concussion if this tackle happened today. pic.twitter.com/GiJMnpjX0Q
— Zoltán Buday (@PFF_Zoltan) February 2, 2021
Tampa Bay’s defense harassed Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon all day.
He was sacked five times and threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions.
Woodson had a pick during the game, but it was inconsequential.
Gruden had a measure of revenge against his former employer with a 48-21 blowout.
Even though Woodson would miss out on a championship, he would get another crack at it years later.
A year after their Super Bowl appearance, the Raiders took a severe nose-dive and finished the season 4-12.
Woodson became unhappy with Callahan and criticized him throughout the year.
He returned to pre-injury form and played in 15 games, collecting three interceptions for 67 yards, eight passes defended and 70 total tackles.
When the ’03 season concluded, so did Woodson’s contract.
The Raiders put a franchise tag on him.
One of my favorite Raiders of all time. The GOAT, Charles Woodson. pic.twitter.com/5I8Lb3tqnT
— OmniDesign Graphics (@OmniDesignGFX) July 22, 2019
That meant that Woodson would receive a minimum of the average salary for the top five cornerbacks in the NFL.
2004 would be the first of two successive years where Woodson battled injuries serious enough where he missed playing time.
That season, he played in the first 13 games before a leg injury knocked him out of the final three games.
The Raiders under new coach Norv Turner would finish 5-11.
In 2005, Woodson shot out of the gate during the first five weeks, grabbing a pick and making 31 total tackles.
During a Week 6 game against the Chargers, he broke his leg and missed the remainder of the year.
Woodson (reluctantly) becomes a Packer
For the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Woodson had played under the franchise tag.
When he was injured in ‘05, that gave the Raiders an excuse to let him move on to a new team.
Woodson was ready to leave Oakland and, given his play for the previous eight seasons, he was sure that teams would be clamoring for his services.
He was incorrect.
“My thought was, ‘I’m going to have people crawling over each other trying to get to me,'” he said earlier this year. “I thought I was that type of player.”
Gruden brought him to Tampa Bay to gauge how his former player would fit into his system.
Ultimately, he did not sign Woodson.
“Probably the worst mistake of my career [not signing him],” Gruden said. “He was at a low point in his career. There were questions about fit.”
One team did finally reach out, though not the team Woodson expected or really wanted to sign with.
“You hear players that have been through Green Bay, especially Black players, say, ‘Hey, man, that ain’t where you want to be. That’s not the team I want calling me. … I couldn’t believe it. I thought there’d be multiple teams and a bidding war. It made me combative,” Woodson said.
The Packers and new coach Mike McCarthy wanted Woodson to play safety, though he still believed he was a top flight corner.
April 26, 2006: #Packers sign Charles Woodson, who would go on to set the franchise record for defensive touchdowns & win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) July 10, 2018
However, there weren’t any other options and Woodson signed with Green Bay.
The relationship between Woodson and his new team may have been contentious at first, but it gradually improved.
“Initially when I got there, things were kind of rocky at the start,” Woodson recalled. “I think that Coach McCarthy and everyone else around there was just trying to make my transition as easy as they could, but I was just very reluctant to allow myself to just be a Packer. We had kind of gone through some things there my first few weeks in the training camp. We had some issues that we had to iron out, but Coach Mike McCarthy assured me, ‘Hey man, we want you here. You’re going to be a big part of this team.’ He was just trying to basically comfort me as a coach and let me know I’m a big part of the plans there in Green Bay.
“Those conversations like that, we were able to have throughout my career, my seven years there in Green Bay, to the point there that Coach McCarthy and my relationship became very solid over the years I was there. I certainly appreciate him for making me feel welcome when I didn’t want to be welcome, actually.”
A near miss in 2007
All the teams that doubted Woodson and passed on him would be kicking themselves in 2006.
That year, Woodson set the world on fire with one of the best seasons of his career.
Even though Green Bay suffered through an 8-8 season, Woodson wasn’t an issue.
He hauled in a then career-high eight interceptions, which led the NFC.
Woodson also took a pick 23 yards to the house during a game against Miami.
McCarthy had Woodson return punts and he did so with aplomb, returning the pigskin a career-high 41 times for a whopping 363 yards.
In 2007, Woodson kept the party going with four interceptions which included one returned 46 yards for a score against the Chiefs.
Charles Woodson was elite during his time with the #Packers from 2006-2012.
— PFF GB Packers (@PFF_Packers) August 9, 2021
He also collected a fumble versus the Redskins and took it 57 yards for a touchdown.
Woodson was all over the field in ‘07, making 63 total tackles and returning 33 punts for 268 yards.
The Packers rode the right arm of quarterback Brett Favre and went 13-3 during the season.
They defeated the Seahawks 42-20 in the Divisional round and then faced the Giants at home in the NFC Championship game.
The contest was a slugfest between two heavyweights and both teams were tied at 20 by the end of regulation.
The Pack were fortunate to get the ball to begin the extra period.
Unfortunately, on the second play of Green Bay’s drive, Favre threw a pass straight into the hands of Giants defensive back Corey Webster.
New York made the most of the turn over and kicked a field goal to win 23-20.
The loss was a shock to the system for the Packers and their fans.
Even worse, it would prove to be Favre’s final game in Green Bay.
2008 and 2009
2008 and ‘09 would be very good to Woodson.
In ‘08, he had two picks in a game against Detroit.
The second interception was returned 41 yards for a touchdown.
Woodson would have a total of seven interceptions for 169 return yards and two touchdowns.
He also defended 17 total passes and had 63 combined tackles.
For the first time in seven years, Woodson returned to the Pro Bowl.
After the Packers went 6-10 in ‘08, the team turned it around in 2009.
That season they put together an 11-5 season but lost to the Cardinals in a crazy 51-45 overtime loss in the Wild Card round.
Woodson would be named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year based on his career-high nine picks for 179 yards, three touchdowns, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 74 total tackles.
Just how dominant was prime Charles Woodson for the Packers?
During a 10 game stretch in 2009, the season in which he won DPOY, he put up:
11 Passes Defended
7 Tackles For Loss
3 QB Hits
1 Fumble Recovery
In 10 games… pic.twitter.com/faa4VW4F2E
— PackersHistory.com (@PackersHistory1) April 23, 2021
Woodson was also named Player of the Month three times during the year.
That honor made him the first defensive player in history to win the award in the same year three times and tied him with Barry Sanders and Mike Vanderjagt to win the award three times in a season.
Super Bowl XLV
The 2010 season didn’t begin as anything special.
The Packers were 3-3 after their first six games.
By the end of the year, they barely qualified as the sixth seed in the NFC with a 10-6 record.
Woodson made the Pro Bowl again on the strength of his two interceptions for 48 yards and a touchdown, 13 passes defended and 92 total tackles.
In the playoffs, he made five tackles in the Packers win over Philadelphia.
Woodson also contributed good performances versus the Falcons and Bears in the next two rounds of the playoffs, both victories.
After the win in Chicago, Woodson gathered his team for a heartfelt goal.
“For two weeks, think about one. Let’s be one mind. Let’s be one heartbeat. One purpose. One goal. One more game. One. Let’s get it,” he said.
In his second Super Bowl appearance as a player, Woodson was having a great game.
With halftime approaching and Green Bay leading the Steelers, Woodson dove to break up a pass intended for Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace.
After making contact with the ground, Woodson did not get up.
He had broken his collarbone.
Charles Woodson talks favorite #Packers memories.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 22, 2015
The injury would keep him out of the game, but Woodson made an emotional plea to his teammates during halftime not to let up.
In the second half, both teams traded scores and the Packers would hold on to win 31-25.
Woodson was credited with three tackles in the game, two of them solo.
In his 13th NFL season, he finally had his championship.
2011-2012 and departure from the Packers
Woodson had healed from his Super Bowl injury in time for the 2011 season and returned to form.
In Week 4, he picked off Kyle Orton of the Bears to join the 50 interception club.
Woodson also had an interception return for a touchdown, which made 11 for his career.
That put him second all-time in that category, just behind Rod Woodson.
In just seven seasons, Charles Woodson worked his way into the top five in Packers history in:
– Interceptions (38 – T-5th)
– INT yards (568 – 5th)
– INT TDs (9 – 1st)
– Passes defensed (99 – 2nd) pic.twitter.com/1ISSgT802Y
— Packers History (@HistoricPackers) August 9, 2021
In all, while the Pack finished 15-1 and were shockingly dispatched by the Giants in the Divisional round, Woodson had seven total picks.
He also defended 17 passes, made 75 total tackles, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and two sacks.
He was named to the Pro Bowl after the season.
2012 was another winning season for Green Bay.
The team finished 11-5 on the way to the postseason where they eventually lost to the 49ers in the Divisional round.
Woodson was having a solid year until he broke his collarbone during a game against the Rams in Week 7.
That caused him to miss most of the season and he finished with an interception, a forced fumble, five passes defended and 38 total tackles.
On February 15, 2013, after seven years with the club, Woodson was released by the Packers.
— Mike De Sisti (@mdesisti) August 9, 2021
He wasn’t bitter about the release and later said he had a lot of respect for Green Bay for taking a chance on him in 2006.
“It was kind of rough at the beginning, because I really didn’t quite want to be there, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I didn’t have anybody who wanted me on their team,” Woodson said. “I was really sour about that, so it kind of dictated the way I interacted with a lot of people around there, really standoffish, got into some verbal arguments and things like that. When I look back on it I kind of feel like it was my way of trying to get out of the situation. But I’m really glad I didn’t get out of it because it turned out the way it turned out.”
Return to Oakland
At that point, Woodson had played 15 years in the NFL.
No one would have blamed him if he decided to retire.
However, Woodson believed he still had plenty in the tank and so did a number of teams.
He had interest from San Francisco and Denver, but he also took a flyer on an opportunity he hadn’t even originally considered.
Woodson was visiting the Raiders just to hear them out when, through the help of social media, a few hundred fans showed up and implored him to return.
It was enough to entice Woodson to sign with his original team on the spot.
“I tell you, man, it was overwhelming,” Woodson said at the time. “I think that if, at any time, I had ever forgotten what the love was like in Oakland, I was definitely reminded…I think [the fan turnout] played a big part [in my return].
“I was actually afraid of leaving the facility and not having a deal done. I don’t know if I would have made it out of there. But that was a big deal and seeing that kind of welcome, it definitely put me in the mindset [where] it would be a good decision to make it happen.”
Woodson’s final three seasons as a pro were a labor of love.
From 2013-2015, the Raiders were not a very good football team.
The most games they won during that span was seven, during head coach Jack Del Rio’s first season with the organization.
Woodson did just fine in his final years.
– Al Davis
– Tim Brown
– Howie Long
– Charles Woodson pic.twitter.com/SynDaFcmVX
— Raider Cody (@RaiderCody) January 9, 2020
He collected ten total picks including five during his final season in 2015.
His numbers that year helped him return to the Pro Bowl for the final time.
Once the ‘15 season ended, that was it for Woodson and he closed out his career.
In 18 years, Woodson had totals of 61 interceptions, 11 touchdown returns for INTs, 33 forced fumbles, 183 passes defended, 18 fumbles recovered and 1,220 combined tackles.
He was a Super Bowl champion, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, First-team All-Pro four times, Second-team All-Pro four times, nine-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL interception leader, Art Rooney Award winner in 2015 and a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.
Busy in retirement
Woodson hasn’t stopped to reflect or take a break as a retiree.
Beginning with his first stint in Oakland, Woodson has been involved in the wine making business.
He owns labels such as “Twentyfour by Charles Woodson” and “Intercept.”
Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers jack-of-all-plays Charles Woodson caught attention as a football talent early, in his high school years, but he also started making wine young. Read the full story via @winespectator: https://t.co/zzE9bSF3qs #winenews #wineindustry pic.twitter.com/D9ehde6lQm
— Wine House (@WineHouseLA) January 21, 2020
After leaving the NFL as an athlete, Woodson joined ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown cast.
In 2018, he left ESPN and became an analyst with Fox Sports to cover college football.
In August of 2021, Woodson was voted in as one of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
— Raiders on NBCS (@NBCSRaiders) February 7, 2021
Although he was honored by becoming immortalized, Woodson put the day in perspective.
“The Hall of Fame is sort of like the validation for the way that you played the game and how well you played the game,” Woodson said. “So, it’s more like the icing on the cake. So is it important? And I’m not trying, of course, to devalue making it into the Hall of Fame. But it was the championship and winning the Super Bowl that was the most important to me.
“It’s the one thing I knew that when I retired, man, if I hadn’t won a Super Bowl then I wouldn’t have felt like my career was fulfilled. But, of course, the Hall of Fame is like that icing on the cake that brings it all together.”
Woodson leads a full life, especially with being married and having two sons.
However, he has humbly viewed his career as an NFL icon in deference.
“I would say that the most important accomplishment of my career revolves around team,” Woodson said. “When you think about what you play the game for, you really play the game to win games, to get to the playoffs and to win the Super Bowl.”