Rod Woodson Pittsburgh Steelers & San Francisco 49ers & Baltimore Ravens & Oakland Raiders
"Why set a mediocre goal, and if you reach it, you're nowhere? Some people say, 'only set a realistic goal.' But how do you know what's realistic and what's not? Until you try to attain it, you'll never know. If you can't dream and hope, I don't know why you're here."
Rod Woodson did it all during his college career at Purdue. He played running back and wide receiver on offense, played cornerback and safety on defense, and returned punts and kickoffs. As a result, it was no surprise when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted the modern-day “triple threat” star in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft.
Steelers coach Chuck Noll acknowledged Woodson’s versatility by playing him at cornerback and as a kick returner, but he was too valuable to risk playing him on both offense and defense. Woodson responded by earning Pro Bowl honors in just his third season.
It wasn’t, however, until Noll’s successor Bill Cowher took over that Woodson really blossomed. In 1992 he was second on the team with 100 tackles and collected six sacks. The next season he had eight interceptions, 28 passes defensed, forced two fumbles, two quarterback sacks, blocked a field goal attempt and recorded a team high 79 solo tackles. For his effort he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
In his 17 NFL seasons (1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders) Woodson recorded 71 interceptions; 1,483 interception return yards; 2,362 punt return yards; and 17 touchdowns. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native also reached the end zone on an NFL record 12 interception returns, 1 fumble return, 2 punt returns and 2 kickoff returns. His interception return yards are also an NFL record and his 71 interceptions rank third all time.
Woodson, a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team, was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times; a record for a defensive back and in 1994 was one of only five active players to be named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team. The others were Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Reggie White and Ronnie Lott.