Charles Woodson said it over and over.
He loves the Napa Valley. So much so that he would like to have a home here one day, preferably close enough to the 12 acres of vineyards that he has in Calistoga.
Woodson, voted the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner out of Michigan and a veteran cornerback who has played 15 years in the NFL, is the founder and owner of TwentyFour Wines. He has developed a signature wine label, TwentyFour by Charles Woodson, and gives back to the community by donating equipment to local high school football programs.
“At some point I do plan on having a residence here,” he said last week. “I love it so much. I love to be here. I’m glad to be back here. Of course, we have TwentyFour here. The people have been great here to me.
“I hate that I don’t get back up here as much as I’d like to. The weather is always great for the most part. It’s relaxing at the same time.”
Woodson resides in Florida. On his next trip to California, he wants to walk his property.
“That will be fun. It’s been good for us so far and we hope it continues,” he said.
Woodson was at 1313 Main Street, a wine bar in Napa, last week. His appearance was part of Winemakers Wednesday.
Two days later, he was released by the Green Bay Packers with two years left on his contract. He suffered a broken collarbone in a Week 7 regular season game against St. Louis back in October and didn’t return until the NFC playoffs.
“We are grateful for all that Charles has given to the Green Bay Packers over the past seven years,” Ted Thompson, executive vice president, general manager and director of football operations, said on the Packers website Friday. “He has been an integral part of the Packers’ success and our Super Bowl title in 2010 would not have been possible without his contributions. A once-in-a-generation talent as a player, he is also a great leader and ambassador for the organization off the field. Charles will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We wish him and his family all the best.”
Woodson played for Green Bay from 2006-2012, starting 100 games over those seven seasons.
He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press in 2009 after posting a career-high nine interceptions. He also had four forced fumbles, two sacks and 21 passes defensed that year.
He is one of the all-time Packer greats, starring on the 2010 team that won Super Bowl XLV.
He holds franchise records for most defensive touchdowns (10, nine interceptions, one fumble return) and most interception returns for touchdowns (9).
Kaepernick leads Niners over Packers
Woodson said the Packers ran into a better team in San Francisco, losing to the 49ers in the divisional playoffs, 45-31, on Jan. 12 at Candlestick Park.
Colin Kaepernick had a lot to do with the 49ers’ high-scoring offense that night, rushing for a quarterback playoff-record 181 yards and two touchdowns and throwing two TD passes as San Francisco advanced in the playoffs.
“He plays well,” said Woodson, 36.
What are the keys to facing Kaepernick?
Woodson weighed in with his thoughts, saying, “I think you’ve got to have a healthy mix of the pressures you want to run as well as zone. Because if you play too much man to man and everybody’s back is to the quarterback, and there’s not a guy open, he takes off and runs, he’s going to kill you. It happened to us a couple of times.
“With him, you’ve got to play some zone, keep everybody’s eyes at him, have good coverage as far as your zone drops. And if he takes off, be able to converge on him to keep him from having the home-run play, which we didn’t do. You’ve got to have a healthy mix, change it up throughout the game, keep him off balance, move around as a defense, at least give him different looks before he takes that snap to where he doesn’t know if you’re a zone or a man to man. You’ve got to have a healthy dose.”
Oakland drafted Woodson out of Michigan with the No. 4 overall pick and he spent the first eight years of his career (1998-2005) with the Raiders. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998.
He’s the only player in NFL history with touchdowns off interceptions over six straight seasons, a mark that he achieved from 2006 to 2011.
Woodson called his time in Green Bay a great ride. He wouldn’t say how many more years he plans to play.
“I won’t put a cap on it. I don’t know. I feel good right now. I’m still playing at a high level. We’ll see how it goes.”
In 15 years, he has 921 total tackles, 55 interceptions, 17 sacks and 182 passes defensed. They are Hall of Fame numbers for one of the game’s greatest defensive backs.
Great respect for Raiders’ McKenzie
Woodson has great respect for Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders’ general manager, who is a former director of player personnel for the Packers.
“I know Reggie McKenzie and I believe in him,” said Woodson. “I believe that he’ll get things turned around. It will be a process, because I know as far as moves that were made prior to him getting there, it will be a struggle trying to get more draft picks, bringing in some free agents and that sort of thing. But I know he’ll get it turned around.
“He’s a great man. It takes time to build a contender, not just a good team, but a contender.”
Woodson works closely with Napa’s Rick Ruiz, the director of operations, and Gustavo A. Gonzalez, the winemaker, for TwentyFour Wines. Woodson has purchased travel bags for football players at Napa High and made a donation so that the Indians’ football program could get an LCD projector for their film room.
“When you’re a person who’s been blessed to do many things in your life and to be in a position that I am in, you’re going to have some opportunities to do things for other people,” said Woodson. “You can’t do everything, of course. But there’s going to be times where you can do it.
“I’ve been able to do a lot of that throughout my life. I really want to continue to do more as I get older. It makes you feel good. Hopefully you can impact someone in a positive way that can help them in the rest of their life.”
TwentyFour Wines produces sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon.
“I remember when Rick and I were first talking about having our own wine and we were telling some people around the Valley that we wanted to do it. I never heard one person tell me I shouldn’t do it. Everything was encouraging. I really appreciate that,” said Woodson.
“I’m very proud and I’m very thankful to know Rick and very thankful to know Gustavo Gonzales. Without those two guys and then the many people that help them do what they do, it wouldn’t be what it is. We’ve gotten great feedback from the time we started to now, as far as the quality of our wines. I feel great about it. We’re pushing along.”