As Charles Woodson put it, there are so many things that he will miss about playing football.
He will miss the bond that you develop with teammates.
He will miss running from the locker room and on to the field and having his name announced as one of the starters.
He will miss standing on the sidelines before games, listening to the words of the national anthem.
He will miss packing his belongings for road trips, the plane rides to the different cities around the country, doing all he can to try to get a win in someone else’s stadium.
“I never intended on playing as long as I have, but this is the way it’s happened and I’m so grateful for it,” Woodson said. “Any time you end your career, no matter what it is, it’s tough to leave, regardless of if you know it’s time or not.”
“It’s a tough game, and a lot of guys go through a lot of things,” he said last week. “I’ve been through my fair share of injuries. But I feel good now. Who knows down the road – but I’m not worried about that right now. Right now I feel good, and I’m thankful for that.”
Woodson, a safety, also feels blessed and proud and fortunate to have played 18 years in the NFL. He played his final two regular season games for Oakland after announcing his retirement on Dec. 21. The Heisman Trophy winner for Michigan began his career for the Raiders and then after playing for Green Bay for seven years, returned to the Bay Area, playing the last three years for the Silver and Black.
Woodson, 39, left the game playing at a high level, playing at the top of his game, as a respected leader on the defense. This season, he intercepted a team-leading five passes to rank tied for sixth in the NFL. Woodson also was the team’s second leading tackler, finishing with 96 stops, and he led the Raiders with three fumble recoveries while starting all 16 games. He also had nine passes defensed and one forced fumble.
“Charles Woodson is one of those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game,” said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. “He is truly a one-of-a-kind player that goes above and beyond his Heisman trophy and future gold jacket. It has been an honor to have worked alongside Charles for so many years. He is, without a doubt, the embodiment of what it means to be a Raider.”
It was a very good year for Woodson, who helped Oakland turn things around. The Raiders allowed 305.9 yards per game over the team’s final seven games, ranking seventh in the NFL over that span. The unit, which became a strength as the season went along, was led by Woodson, who earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection and was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in October.
He was named as the Raiders’ nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which is presented each year to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
He was named as the team’s recipient of the Craig Long Award, presented to the player who best exemplifies professionalism and collaboration with the media at large.
Woodson also received his second straight Commitment to Excellence Award, given to the Raider who best exemplifies hard work, leadership, and excellence on and off the field throughout the season.
He was named second-team defense on The Associated Press 2015 NFL All-Pro team, which was selected by a national panel of 50 media members.
In December, he was selected to his ninth Pro Bowl and fifth as a Raider. The annual all-star game will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Jan. 31. ESPN will carry the game, which has a 4 p.m. kickoff.
“I’d rather be playing in the playoffs and having a chance at trying to get a Super Bowl. But the Pro Bowl is about hard work, what you do throughout the year. It is a great honor to be included in the game,” said Woodson, who has Charles Woodson Wines of Napa.
“The Pro Bowl will just be fun. It’s a chance to take your family over to Hawaii, have a good time, enjoy some sunshine and some water. I’m looking forward to that.”
There were several games this year that Woodson starred in:
He sealed the Raiders’ Week 3 win at Cleveland with an interception on the game’s final drive. He had an interception late in the game in Week 4 at Chicago to set up the go-ahead score. He intercepted quarterback Peyton Manning twice in the Week 5 game vs. Denver, becoming the oldest player in NFL history to record two picks in a game. He added another interception in the Week 8 victory vs. the New York Jets.
He was in on two turnovers in the Week 13 game against Kansas City, forcing and recovering the same fumble and returning it 38 yards. He also recovered another fumble in the game.
“Charles has had an amazing career. He’s an amazing person, an amazing player, an amazing leader,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. “His influence that he has on the other players, I’m just fortunate that I had the chance to coach with him one of his 18 years. I remember him back in ’98 – I was still playing when he came in – by how special he was in his ability to be around the ball and make special things happen. He left his mark on this game.
“He’s done so much and he’s helped me so much as far as trying to get this young team together and guide them and influence them. He’s been a real asset to me in trying to lead this team and this defense.”
Woodson ends his career as one of the greatest in the game.
He finishes in fifth place on the NFL’s all-time interceptions list with 65 picks.
Woodson is one of only two players in football history to have ever won a Heisman Trophy, Associated Press Rookie of the Year, Associated Press Player of the Year and a Super Bowl in their career. He is also a three-time first-team All-Pro.
“A lot of people don’t make it this far,” said Woodson. “The average is 3 ½ years – you’re always told that throughout your career. People don’t last long in this game. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to stick around and play at a high level for my entire career, which is another hard thing to do. That’s the only way you stick around – if you’re out there and you’re able to produce and make plays.”
Originally selected by the Raiders in the first round (fourth overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft, Woodson played his first eight seasons for the Silver and Black (1998-2005), helping the Raiders to three straight AFC West titles from 2000-02 and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII.
After the 2005 season, Woodson joined the Green Bay Packers, where he played for seven seasons (2006-12). In 2009, he was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the oldest defensive back to ever win the award and the first cornerback since 1994. In 2009, he set a career high and tied for the league lead with nine interceptions. The following year, Woodson led the Packers on a run to the Super Bowl XLV title, as he started all 20 regular season and postseason games.
Woodson rejoined the Raiders in 2013, allowing him to finish his NFL career where it began.
“I’m very grateful that I was able to come back here and play for a second time around,” said Woodson. “It was a lot of fun. We didn’t get a chance to accomplish what we would have liked to this year as a team, but nevertheless, I had a great deal of fun playing.
“I feel very good about the way I performed, not only this year, but my whole career. It’s the only way you’re able to play as long as I have, is to go out there and perform. To be performing at the level that I have this year, it just makes it all that much better.”
At the University of Michigan, Woodson was a three-year starter (1995-97). In his junior season of 1997, he became the first predominantly defensive player to ever win the Heisman Trophy, helping the Wolverines to a 12-0 record and the Associated Press National Championship.
“For years and years he’s just been a tremendous player and person, an ambassador for the whole sport of football,” said Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
“You’re losing a legend, but I think he’s taught the secondary a lot,” Raiders cornerback David Amerson said.
Woodson ended his career playing for new head coach Jack Del Rio, who directed the Raiders to a 7-9 record, a huge improvement over the previous season.
“He came in and did a great job. I think he was clear on his direction on what he wanted from the team. He came in and put a great staff together. His vision was to win now. We all kind of followed that. We all felt good every time we went out there on the field, that we were going to win games,” said Woodson.
“Part of his vision was changing the culture. We all went into the season very confident that we could make the playoffs. Even though we did not, that was our mission and that was our mind-set.
“He’s going to demand a lot out of you. If he doesn’t get it, you’re not going to play. You’re not going to be around. He’s very clear about that.”
Plans to spend more time in Napa
Woodson plans to spend more time in Napa with his business, Charles Woodson Wines. Woodson’s tasting room, which features football memorabilia, is located at 902 D, Enterprise Way, Napa. It’s by appointment only. Call (707) 252-3112 to set up an appointment. The web site is charleswoodsonwines.com.
Charles Woodson Wines has its vineyards in Calistoga, east of the Silverado Trail. Charles Woodson Wines is building a winery close to its tasting room.
Charles Woodson Wines produces about 2,000 cases of cabernet sauvignon and about 1,500 cases of sauvignon blanc each year.
“We started small and we’ve kept it relatively small, just to make sure we were doing things the right way. But right now, we feel good about where we are at,” said Woodson, the owner of Charles Woodson Wines.
Rick Ruiz of Napa is the president of Charles Woodson Wines. He is also a Napa High graduate and former Indians assistant football coach.
Woodson has a connection to the Napa High football program and over the years, has donated team travel bags and equipment for the film room.
Woodson was recognized by Napa High as an honorary captain for his contributions to the football program at a nonleague game in September against Casa Grande-Petaluma. Woodson, a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team, took part in the pregame coin toss at midfield.
The Indians’ pregame featured a surprise appearance by Woodson, who spoke to the Napa players about an hour before kickoff.
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