As I stand on the sideline waiting for Charles Woodson to come out of the tunnel for the last time in Oakland I can’t help but feel lucky to be witnessing one of the greatest defensive players of all time play his final home game in the NFL. Saddened, I begin to reflect on his accomplishments that most players never experience. As a Raider fan I am feeling selfish wanting one more year, but realize the Raider Nation along with the NFL is lucky to have had the 18 years we did with such a phenomenal player.
Woodson attended Ross High School in Fremont, Ohio and went on to attend the University of Michigan. His college days seemed to predict the great success he would experience in his overall football career. In 1995, he was named Big Ten Freshman of The Year and in 1996 he was named Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year and an AP First Team All-American, and that's being modest. In 1997, he won the Heisman Trophy beating out Peyton Manning by close to 300 more voting points. His list of college accomplishments could go on and on and be a whole column alone. He ended his college career with 18 interceptions and has 30 defended passes.
In 1998, Woodson was picked 4th overall in the 1st round of the draft by the Oakland Raiders. His first year he was named NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also the first rookie since 1971 to start in every game his rookie season. In 2003, he played in Super Bowl XXXVII and recorded an interception against Tampa Bay, but in the end the Raiders were denied a victory by their former head coach Jon Gruden. Woodson went on a few more years starting until he broke his leg in 2004, and was sidelined the remainder of the season.
Then in 2006, Woodson added another chapter to his legacy as he became a Green Bay Packer. Although reluctant to go at first, his Green Bay years contributed to his long list of accomplishments. In his first year he led the National Football Conference with 8 interceptions. Through his seven-year stint with the Packers he achieved numerous interceptions that would help place him on the list of the NFL’s interception leaders (he is currently tied at 5th place with Cincinnati Bengals DB Ken Riley, which could change after Sunday’s match up against Kansas City). He also experienced a second Super Bowl, this time resulting in a victory.
C-Wood, as Raider fans call him, returned to the Silver and Black in 2013 signing a one year deal that evolved into a total of three years. Aside from remaining an interception leader in the NFL, Woodson accomplished one of his wishes by intercepting Peyton Manning twice during the AFC West rivalry game in Oakland this season.
At 39, it seems to me Woodson has everything going for him in the football world — he’s healthy, a leader on the field, setting records, he could probably go on into his 40s playing a game he has played since he was 6 years old. However, after the second to last home game of the 2015 season, he announced he would be playing his last season in the NFL. Raider fans were saddened, but understood. Fast forward to Christmas Eve...
Besides the fact that it is a blustery cold night, Christmas Eve, Thursday Night Football and the Raiders last game in Oakland for the season, hopefully not forever, the crowd's nonstop energy is derived from the fact that this is Woodson's final game in the O.co. Hundreds of fans sport their #24 jerseys, hold signs of well wishes, chant Woodson’s name and savor the moment. At one point towards the end of the 4th quarter, a fan runs out onto the field hugging Woodson and then throws his hands in the air making an “O” as Woodson is famous for doing. Woodson looks on in shock as security and police tackle the impulsive fan, but as the fan is carted off the field Woodson returns the “O” gesture back, and the crowd goes wild.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers refused to give any opportunity to Woodson for an interception. The rivals are tied 20-20 at the end of the 4th quarter going into overtime. The Raiders defense refused to give the Chargers movement during their attempt to win the game leading the Raiders to win by a field goal. Just as promised by his team mates and with the help of the fans, Woodson got the win he was promised and the exit of a lifetime.
After the game his team mates doused him in Gatorade before he gave a heartfelt speech to the Raider Nation stating, “Though this is my last game at the coliseum just know I will never leave you. Go Raiders!”
Charles Woodson: Ohio’s Mr. Football, Michigan’s Heisman Trophy winner, Green Bay’s Super Bowl champ but forever Oakland’s Raider.