Woodsons Defined Taking It To The House

Woodsons Defined Taking It To The House

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By Andy Phillips
Special to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

This is a story about two completely different NFL players whose football careers aren’t so different after all. Both these gentlemen spent their college careers wrecking havoc in Big Ten country on their way to becoming Top 10 picks in the NFL draft.

Both players exceeded their high draft expectations by becoming NFL Defensive Players of the Year, combining for 11 first-team All-Pro selections, 20 Pro Bowl selections and each winning a Super Bowl. What makes these stories even more similar is that these two shared the same defensive backfield for two seasons (2002-2003) in Oakland as members of the Raiders.

While both these stalwarts enjoyed their prime years playing cornerback, each were such smart and instinctive players that they spent their final years roaming the middle of the field playing safety. At this point, I am sure most of you can guess to whom I am now referring, but let me give everyone one final nail in the similarity coffin: They share the same last name.

The reason for this article is to spotlight that last name, WOODSON, which is exactly what opponents would see on the backs of their jerseys as they were running the opposite direction for a defensive touchdown.


Rod Woodson, Hall of Fame Class of 2009, is No. 1 on the NFL’s all-time list for interceptions returned for a touchdown with 12 in the regular season. Also known as a “pick-six,” Rod made a habit of turning defense into instant offense during his 17-year career. I looked at every one of Rod’s pick-sixes. Here’s the list:

  • #1 (11/22/1987) at Cincinnati – 45 yards off Boomer Esiason
  • #2 (10/17/1993) vs. New Orleans – 63 yards off Wade Wilson
  • #3 (11/14/1994) vs. Buffalo – 37 yards off Jim Kelly
  • #4 (12/04/1994) at Cincinnati – 27 yards off Jeff Blake
  • #5 (09/08/1996) vs. Baltimore – 43 yards off Vinny Testaverde
  • #6 (09/13/1998) at New York Jets – 60 yards off Glenn Foley
  • #7 (11/08/1998) vs. Oakland – 18 yards off Donald Hollas
  • #8 (11/07/1999) at Cleveland – 66 yards off Ty Detmer
  • #9 (12/05/1999) vs. Tennessee – 47 yards off Steve McNair
  • #10 (12/02/2001) vs. Indianapolis – 47 yards off Peyton Manning
  • #11 (09/29/2002) vs. Tennessee – 82 yards off Steve McNair
  • #12 (11/11/2002) at Denver – 98 yards off Brian Griese

You now are wondering what is the takeaway – no pun intended – of the above information, so here is a breakdown:

12 games, 8 different seasons, with three teams, off 11 quarterbacks, for a total of 633 yards (52.8 average)

While that alone is impressive, the only number I am willing to bet Rod Woodson cares about is this next discovery: Rod’s teams were 12-0 in such games.

That proves this isn’t a “paper statistic.” On the contrary, the ability not only to create turnovers, but also to turn them into instant points is one of the most vital statistics to team success.

While Rod Woodson sits at the top of this list, sitting tied for second with 11 interceptions returned for a touchdown is the man referenced above who shares the same last name: Charles Woodson, a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.

Here’s what a review of his 11 TDs by interception revealed:

  • #1 (10/04/1998) at Arizona – 46 yards off Jake Plummer
  • #2 (11/28/1999) vs. Kansas City – 15 yards off Elvis Grbac
  • #3 (10/22/2006) at Miami – 23 yards off Joey Harrington
  • #4 (11/04/2007) at Kansas City – 46 yards off Damon Huard
  • #5 (09/14/2008) at Detroit – 41 yards off Jon Kitna
  • #6 (09/28/2008) at Tampa Bay – 62 yards off Brian Griese
  • #7 (09/20/2009) vs. Cincinnati – 37 yards off Carson Palmer
  • #8 (11/26/2009) at Detroit – 38 yards off Matthew Stafford
  • #9 (01/03/2010) at Arizona – 45 yards off Matt Leinart
  • #10 (10/03/2010) vs. Detroit – 48 yards off Shaun Hill
  • #11 (10/02/2011) vs. Denver – 30 yards off Kyle Orton


11 games, 8 different seasons, with two teams, off 11 quarterbacks, for a total of 431 yards (39.2 average)

Also, while Charles’ teams weren’t undefeated in these games, they went 8-3. The Woodsons’ combined team record in such games of 20-3 was good for an 87% winning percentage. For reference, Tom Brady’s career regular-season winning percentage is 77%.

In NFL Network’s “America’s Game” about the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach Jon Gruden said he challenged his defense by saying:

“If you’re such a great defense, why don’t you score on defense? And I’m talking nine touchdowns – score nine touchdowns. If you’re so good – I keep hearing about all of these stats – catch the ball, intercept it, and run it back for a touchdown. If you want to dominate and win a Super Bowl, you’ve got to score nine touchdowns.”

In other words, good defenses create turnovers, but great defenses turn them into points. Take it from Gruden, who’s all-time great Tampa Bay defense scored their way to the Super Bowl that 2002 season. Ironically, Gruden and the Buccaneers’ opponent in Super Bowl XXXVII was none other than the Oakland Raiders, whose defense featured both Rod Woodson and Charles Woodson.

What makes the Woodsons’ feat even more incredible is that at some point opponents can make the decision they won’t throw at a specific defender any more; it’s not worth the risk.

Both Woodsons were household names early on and had to take advantage of any time the opposing quarterback had a lapse in judgment and decided to test the waters of Woodson Island. And take advantage they both did in historical fashion.

Now, both are Pro Football Hall of Famers and are teammates once again, this time forever in Canton. It might be a good time to start a new term or a title for interceptions returned for a touchdown. While “pick-six” is clever and logical, I propose to honor the legends of the game further. Much like yelling “Kobe!” anytime you shoot your socks into the hamper or a piece of paper into the trash, any time you see a player intercept a pass with a clear line to the end zone, we all should yell “Woodson!” – as there is no secret who set the bar so high for this action.

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