Damien Woody certainly made his mark on New England Patriots franchise history.
When Bill Belichick, Eric Mangini, and Tom Brady joined the Patriots in 2000, they set the foundation for the team’s dominance over the next two decades.
Woody, who became a center during his college days with the Boston College Eagles, snapped the football to Brady for three seasons from 2001 to 2003.
The Patriots won their first two Super Bowl titles during that memorable three-season stretch. Woody, a former NFL All-Rookie Team selection, also earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod along the way.
Woody then played for the Detroit Lions and New York Jets in subsequent years. He went on to play offensive guard and right tackle as his memorable 12-year pro football career progressed.
Woody, who has been an ESPN NFL analyst since 2011, has been one of the more prominent faces of the football media landscape for the better part of a decade.
This is Damien Woody’s inspiring football story.
Damien Michael Woody was born in Beaverdam, VA on November 3, 1977.
Woody attended Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, VA. He was a two-way lineman for the Patrick Henry Patriots.
Damien’s grandfather, Franklin Woody, played an integral role in his football career.
According to the Boston Eagles’ official athletics website, there was no indication that the 5’10”, 200-lb. Woody was going to play football in the ninth grade. His parents had reservations about letting him strap on his pads and cleats.
At that point, it seemed like Damien had settled in nicely as a high school basketball and track star.
However, Franklin Woody convinced Damien’s parents to let him try out for football. Despite their apprehension, they finally gave Damien the go-ahead.
Woody, the former basketball and track star, grew six inches and gained 60 pounds during the four-month period between his sophomore and junior seasons. His best friend, Aaron Kinney, also had a similar growth spurt.
With a bigger Damien Woody beefing up the Patriots’ offensive and defensive lines, they won the high school football state title in 1994.
65 days until kickoff! Pictured is PH’s Damien Woody. He was a part of the Patriots’ ‘94 Championship team. He went on to BC where he was 3x All-Big East. Woody was then drafted 17th overall in ‘98 to the Patriots, and played in the NFL for 12 years. He’s now an analyst for ESPN. pic.twitter.com/hcvVewx3VG
— Virginia Sports Network (@vasportsnetwork) June 21, 2022
Woody’s stellar play earned him high school All-American honors as a senior that year.
Damien received several scholarship offers from various college football programs, including the Virginia Cavaliers.
Woody and Kinney also both visited Boston College in Chestnut Hill, MA as their high school days wound down.
Kinney eventually committed to the Florida Gators while Woody chose the Boston College Eagles. The latter felt Boston College gave him the best opportunity to live the student-athlete life to the fullest.
“I wanted to be a true student-athlete,” Woody told BCEagles.com in 2015. “My parents and I both valued a good education, and I wanted a geographical change.”
Unfortunately, the first major decision of Damien Woody’s life came at a high cost—he and his girlfriend Nicole Young parted ways after he committed to the Eagles. They had been together since ninth grade.
Nevertheless, Woody’s four-year college tenure in Massachusetts was a prelude to his five-year pro football career with the NFL’s New England Patriots.
College Days with the Boston College Eagles
Damien Woody attended Boston College from 1995 to 1998. He played for Boston College Eagles head football coaches Dan Henning and Tom O’Brien.
Woody redshirted his true freshman season in 1995. With Damien watching his new teammates from the sidelines, the Eagles won just four games that year.
It was Boston College’s worst showing since the 1991 NCAA campaign—the first year of the Tom Coughlin era where the Eagles won just four of 11 games.
When Woody reported for his first practice in his redshirt freshman season in 1996, Henning told him he was going to play center, per the Eagles’ official athletics website.
Woody was an offensive lineman in high school and he had never played center until that point in his gridiron career. He told Henning about his doubts and apprehensions.
Henning put Woody at ease—the former told his new recruit that he and his coaching staff would teach him the intricacies of the center position.
Henning also told Woody that he had the makings of a Pro Bowl-caliber center who would earn a high draft stock in three years’ time.
Woody agreed and learned the finer points of offensive line play from line coach George Warhop.
Although Warhop refined Woody’s long snapping and blocking skills, he also taught him arguably the most valuable trait of a center—calling out blocking plays on the offensive line.
Woody also benefited immensely from his match-ups with defensive tackle Chris Hovan, who eventually played 11 seasons with three different NFL teams—a similar career path Woody took at the pro football level.
Before long, the 6’4″ Woody weighed 335 pounds and earned the moniker “The Dominator” from his Eagles teammates.
Damien’s evolution into a top-caliber offensive lineman was a sight to behold. He felt like he had all of the intangibles by the time his college football career with the Eagles reached its peak.
“An offensive lineman has to be smart and tough, and he has to have good feet,” Woody told BCEagles.com in 2015. “If you’ve got those three things, I can work with you at any level.”
With Woody at the top of his game, three different Eagles running backs combined for seven 100-yard rushing games in the 1996 NCAA season. Woody also earned All-Big East Second Team honors that year.
Woody’s metamorphosis into one of the best offensive linemen in Boston College program history coincided with a breakthrough in his life off the gridiron.
An unsuspecting Woody answered the phone in his dorm room sometime during his sophomore season with the Eagles in 1996.
To Damien’s astonishment, it was his Nicole—his high school sweetheart who broke up with him when he committed to Boston College some two years earlier.
Both Damien and Nicole missed each other terribly. They spoke on the phone for five hours and rekindled their old flame. They eventually became husband and wife and had seven children together.
1999: @Patriots select C Damien Woody from Boston College. Woody played 5 seasons in New England, winning 2 Super Bowls. LB Andy Katzenmoyer from Ohio State selected with 28th pick in first round. Andy's career cut short by a neck injury in 2000. RB Kevin Faulk was 3rd Rd (46) pic.twitter.com/F6WXkWpqSY
— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) April 26, 2018
Behind the inspired Damien’s exploits at center, Boston College was one of the country’s top offenses in 1997.
The Eagles had 4,527 all-purpose yards in the 1997 NCAA campaign. Consequently, Woody earned his second straight All-Big East Second Team selection.
Woody started all 11 games for O’Brien in 1998. He also opened up running holes for Mike Cloud, who racked up ten 100-yard rushing games that year.
Despite Damien’s best efforts, Boston College averaged just four wins per season from 1995 to 1998. The Eagles never played in a bowl game during Woody’s four-year tenure in Chestnut Hill, MA.
Damien Woody would remain in the state of Massachusetts for the next five years.
With Woody powering the New England Patriots offensive line, the team would win its first two Super Bowl titles in franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The New England Patriots made Damien Woody the 17th overall selection of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Woody became the first center drafted in the first round in more than a decade, per BCEagles.com.
Woody’s first year with the Patriots coincided with Pete Carroll’s final year at the helm in New England in 1999.
Under Carroll’s leadership, the Patriots made two straight postseason appearances from 1997 to 1998. Unfortunately, New England had a mediocre 8-8 win-loss record in Damien’s rookie season.
Nonetheless, Damien Woody proved he belonged in the NFL ranks. He earned NFL All-Rookie Team honors following the 1999 NFL campaign.
Regrettably, Patriots owner Robert Kraft fired Carroll at the season’s end. The latter hired former New York Jets defensive coordinator Bill Belichick in January 2000.
Damien Woody and his Patriots teammates soon found out Belichick was a hard-nosed football coach in every sense of the word.
Woody told Boston Magazine’s Melissa Malamut in the summer of 2014 that training camp under Belichick was one of the hardest things he had ever done.
“When I was with the Pats, the league was different then,” Woody said. “Practices were longer, and there was a lot more contact. Coach Belichick is very demanding, and the practices were very physical.”
Woody told The Ryan Rusillo Podcast (via MassLive.com’s Chris Mason) in the fall of 2022 that his first training camp with Belichick was so intense, the thought of retiring from pro football crossed his mind.
Fortunately, Damien reconsidered and pressed onward. It was one of the best decisions he made in his pro football career.
When Belichick met the Patriots on the first day of training camp in 2000, he told them not to ask for breaks because there wouldn’t be any. He also told them to dig their heels in and work like they’d never worked in their lives.
Belichick and his coaching staff organized two-a-days at Bryant College that lasted three weeks. Woody remembered players “were dropping like flies” in the scorching Massachusetts summer heat.
Despite the grueling circumstances, the Patriots’ hard work was fruitful over Woody’s next four seasons in New England.
When Tom Brady took over as the Patriots’ starting quarterback during the 2001 NFL season, New England’s fortunes changed drastically.
Although Brady was a former fourth-string quarterback, Woody saw something special in him the moment he took over starting duties from the injured Drew Bledsoe.
“This dude, when he got in the huddle, he just had an aura about him and a presence about him that was special,” Woody told Boston.com’s Hayden Bird in January 2017.
Woody’s hunch was right on the money. Damien, who eventually became an ESPN NFL analyst in his retirement years, was already showing a glimpse of his potential in the broadcast booth.
After a forgettable 5-11 showing in Belichick’s first year on the job, the Patriots regrouped and won an average of 11 games per year from 2001 to 2003.
With Woody snapping the football to Brady on every offensive play, the Patriots won their first two Super Bowl titles in franchise history.
Not only did Woody earn two Super Bowl rings in New England, but he also earned his first and only Pro Bowl selection following the 2002 NFL season.
“Damien gave the Patriots five solid years and was an important part of two Super Bowl champions,” Belichick said (via MassLive.com). “He’s a tough, flexible, team-oriented player.”
After five seasons in New England, Damien Woody signed a six-year, $31 million contract with the Lions in the spring of 2004.
According to ESPN’s Michael Smith, Woody became the league’s highest-paid interior lineman after signing with Detroit.
Second-year Lions head coach Steve Mariucci assigned Woody to the right guard spot prior to the 2004 NFL season. It was a radical change for Woody, who had spent the past three seasons snapping the football to perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady in New England.
Regrettably, Damien Woody played below expectations in his four seasons in the Motor City.
Happy Birthday to Kenny Golladay, Damien Woody, Cassius Vaughn, and Anthony Henry!@kgxix played WR in 2017-2020 & turns 29 today!@damienwoody played Guard in 2004-2007 & turns 45!@CassiusVaughn played CB in 2014 & turns 35!
— Detroit Lions Birthdays (@LionsBirthdays) November 3, 2022
However, second-year Lions head coach Rod Marinelli switched Woody to the right tackle position after George Foster had issues holding off opposing edge rushers.
Damien eventually settled in at right tackle—the position he would play for the remainder of his 12-year NFL career—midway through the 2007 NFL campaign.
The Lions averaged just five wins per year from 2004 to 2007. Since reaching the NFC Wild Card Game under head coach Bobby Ross in 1999, Detroit had missed the postseason for eight consecutive years.
After four forgettable seasons in Detroit, Damien tested the free-agent waters following the 2007 NFL season.
Woody eventually signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract with Eric Mangini’s New York Jets in the spring of 2008. The deal included $11 million in guaranteed money, per Smith.
Woody told Jim Gehman of the Jets’ official website in the summer of 2021 that he chose Gang Green because of his prior relationship with third-year head coach Eric Mangini.
Prior to becoming the Jets’ head coach in January 2006, Mangini previously served as the Patriots’ defensive backs coach from 2000 to 2004.
Mangini’s arrival in New England coincided with Woody’s second season with the Patriots in 2000.
Woody also told Gehman that he wanted to return to the East Coast so he could stay close to his family. Damien and his family eventually settled in northern New Jersey late into his retirement years.
Damien promptly picked up where he left off in Detroit and played right tackle for the Jets for the next three seasons from 2008 to 2010.
Unfortunately for Woody, his reunion with Mangini was short-lived. The Jets fired Mangini despite a 9-7 win-loss record in Brett Favre’s first and only season in Jets green and white in 2008.
Despite having an aging Favre under center, the Jets missed the postseason for the second straight year. The Jets replaced Mangini with former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
Ryan’s coaching style was popular with Woody and his Jets teammates. The new head coach quickly hit it off with his Jets players.
“Rex was a player’s coach,” Woody told Gehman in August 2021. “He really knew how to vibe with the players. I bought in and so did everybody else. Rex just made it fun. He didn’t view himself as the head coach. He viewed himself as just one of the guys on a mission.”
Ryan’s approach resonated deeply with the ten-year veteran offensive lineman. There were times when the two would have beers together and discuss team issues—something Woody never experienced with Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick in New England and Steve Mariucci and Rod Marinelli in Detroit.
Ryan told his players that the Jets would emphasize defense and the ground game. Although Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was just a rookie in 2009, he led Gang Green to consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances.
Lowest allowed pressure rates in a season by a Jets OT since 2006
1️⃣ George Fant (’21): 3.2%
2️⃣ Damien Woody (’08): 3.6%
3️⃣ Damien Woody (’09): 3.9%
4️⃣ D’Brickshaw Ferguson (’08): 4.1%
5️⃣ D’Brickshaw Ferguson (’09): 4.3% pic.twitter.com/S9SyFwSX2F
— PFF NY Jets (@PFF_Jets) June 24, 2022
The Jets averaged ten wins per season during Damien Woody’s three-year tenure in the Big Apple from 2008 to 2010. Their two AFC title game appearances in 2009 and 2010 were the pinnacles of that memorable run in franchise history.
Alas, Woody’s injury-ravaged 2010 NFL season was an indication that his pro football career was nearing its conclusion.
Damien sustained a torn meniscus that year with the Jets. Although he rehabbed and recovered before the season ended, he tore his Achilles tendon in the Jets’ 17-16 win against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card Game on January 18, 2011.
At that point, Woody knew he had played his final down in the National Football League.
“My wife and girls were in tears after that game,” Woody told BCEagles.com in 2015. “But I knew it was over for me. I was at peace with it. I’d done everything I’d set out to do.”
Damien Woody officially retired from the NFL in the summer of 2011. He felt he had learned from the best coaches during his memorable 12-year pro football career.
“I was fortunate enough to play for the best coaches in the business—Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick for the Patriots, then later on Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan,” Woody told the Boston Eagles’ official athletics website four years after he hung up his cleats.
Although one door closed for Damien Woody, another one would open up shortly after he retired from pro football.
Little did he know that new door would make him one of the most renowned and respected football analysts in the sports media industry.
Damien Woody, his wife Nicole, their four daughters (Kamille, Jalynn, Alexandra, and Domonique), and their three sons (Deuce, Dontrell, and Jacoby) currently reside in Mendham, NJ.
Just several days after Woody announced his retirement from pro football in the summer of 2011, ESPN reached out to his agent, Ben Dogra, about an open football analyst position.
Damien Woody passed his audition with flying colors. He signed his contract and began working for ESPN just nine days after he retired from the NFL. He has been with the network ever since.
“I get to stay close to the game of football,” Woody told NewYorkJets.com in the summer of 2021. “Just being able to talk to different coaches, the players, I mean, it’s just something that I love doing.”
Contrary to what some of his fellow former NFL teammates and opponents think, Woody emphasized that a football analyst’s job is not a walk in the park.
While some aspiring broadcasters think all you need to do is show up and talk football, Woody told the Jets’ official website that an analyst also has to collect information and put in hard work.
Woody and his fellow football analysts pore over copious amounts of film and talk to many league and team sources. He also realized that today’s game is noticeably different from the game played in his era in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Woody regularly does segments for SportsCenter and Get Up. He is also one of the mainstays of NFL Rewind on ESPN.
Three years into Damien’s ESPN tenure, he joined The Biggest Loser: Glory Days—the show’s 16th season—in the summer of 2014.
Regrettably, Woody lost to former Miami Dolphins quarterback Scott Mitchell for a chance to advance to the semifinal round.
Despite the heartbreaking loss to Mitchell, Woody, who tipped the scales at 388 pounds in August 2014, lost an incredible 107 pounds just four months later.
Woody told Boston Magazine that he trained an average of six to eight hours daily during his stint on The Biggest Loser: Glory Days.
ESPN blocked FOX Sports’ recruitment of Woody in the summer of 2022, per the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand.
FOX Sports, which was ready to offer Woody a substantially higher pay raise, was planning to pair him up with Craig Carton on the latter’s new show.
According to Marchand, Woody had one year remaining on his ESPN deal at the time.
Damien Woody is a staunch fan of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) New York Islanders.
He told the Talkin’ Isles podcast in the summer of 2021 that it all began two years earlier when he tweeted about the sorry state of the New York sports scene.
Woody tweeted his frustrations about the losing seasons of the New York Knicks, the New York Jets, and the New York Giants at the time.
Out of nowhere, the Islanders sent him a tweet with a waving hand emoji saying they were doing great during the 2019-20 NHL campaign. The Islanders eventually finished that season with a 35-23-10 record.
Before long, the Islanders invited Woody and his family to watch a live game rinkside against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fall of 2019.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 14, 2019
Woody, who was decked out in Islanders blue and orange, cheered his heart out for the home team. He has been an Islanders fan ever since.
“If you’re going to do it, you might as well go all-in with it,” Woody told the Islanders’ official website in November 2019. “I figure I’ll be a fan all the way with the jersey, hat, and everything else.”
Woody has been a valuable asset to the community. He and his family established the Pro Foundation which helps raise funds to send critically-ill cancer patients and their family members to Disney World, per BCEagles.com.
Damien Woody is also a member of the Boston College Eagles’ Varsity Club Hall of Fame.