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Pro Football Hall of Fame comes calling for former Packers DB Charles Woodson

Impressive seven-year run in Green Bay highlights career of first-ballot selection for Canton

Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson
Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson

GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson didn't play the majority of his 18-year career for the Packers.

But it can be argued his seven years in Green Bay are what made him a Hall of Famer.

Woodson was officially elected for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 on Saturday, earning the honor in his first year of eligibility.

"I feel like this means that I'm going to live forever," said Woodson on Sunday morning. "This is immortality. This is a great, great accomplishment that I share with each and every player and coach and friend and family member that I have that's supported me over the years. This is the ultimate compliment that one player could ever achieve after their playing days are over."

The nine-time Pro Bowl and four-time first-team All-Pro defensive back entered the league in 1998 as Oakland's first-round draft pick, No. 4 overall, fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Michigan. He played his first eight seasons, and his last three, with the Raiders.

In between he fashioned a wildly productive seven-year run with the Packers (2006-12) that saw him win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009, help lead the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV championship in 2010, and put his name in several places in Green Bay's storied record book.

During his time in Green Bay, Woodson recorded 38 of his 65 career interceptions and 11½ of his 20 sacks. He also scored 10 of his 14 defensive touchdowns in a Packers uniform.

He led the NFL in interceptions in both 2009 (with nine) and in '11 (with seven). He earned two of his four first-team All-Pro selections in Green Bay and four of his nine Pro Bowl bids.

His 10 career defensive TDs – nine on interception returns – are both franchise records, well above the previous marks of seven in each category. His 38 interceptions as a member of the Packers are tied for fourth in team history with LeRoy Butler, who also was a Hall of Fame finalist this year but is still awaiting selection to Canton.

Growing up in Fremont, Ohio, Woodson's passion for the game began at an early age, as he looked to step out of the shadow of his older brother, Terry Carter, who went on to play football at Miami-Ohio.

"People used to refer to me as Terry's little brother," Woodson said. "To me, that was a slight. Because I'm like, 'No, my name is Charles and I need you to call me Charles.' I felt like I have to surpass my brother somehow so people can call me by my name instead of just calling me Terry's little brother.

"That's where my passion came from, man, and took to the field every time I played because I was trying to be me. I wanted people to recognize who I was as a football player and as a person, to call me by my name."

Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls (2008-11) while with the Packers and led the league in interceptions in 2009 and 2011. He holds franchise records for the most touchdowns on interceptions (nine) and the most defensive touchdowns (10). In 2009 he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press and earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

Arriving in Green Bay as a free agent in 2006, Woodson immediately made his presence felt, posting eight interceptions, the first of four times he would lead the team in picks.

His leadership took on its greatest form in the championship season of 2010 and was immortalized with a postgame locker room speech in Chicago following the Packers' victory over the Bears in the NFC title game to advance to Super Bowl XLV.

Emphasizing the word "one" and holding up his index finger, he implored the team to be "one mind" and "one heartbeat," focusing on "one purpose" and "one goal" for "one more game."

"One of my fondest memories of that time is the night before the Super Bowl, for our meeting that Saturday night, all the players got together, surrounded a piano that was there and a young man on our team (C.J. Wilson) could play the piano so he started playing," Woodson said. "All of a sudden down there in that room, everybody just started singing different tunes that he was playing. I remember us being so loose, so ready for the moment that I knew right then and there, or I felt right then and there, that we were going to win that game."

Woodson would go on to break his collarbone late in the first half of the Super Bowl, unable to play in the second half of the victory over the Steelers. One of the most iconic photos of his career shows him after the game hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with one arm while his other arm is in a sling. The key words from the "one" speech are etched on the inside of the team's championship rings.

Joining quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Calvin Johnson as first-ballot Hall of Famers in 2021, Woodson is one of 79 inductees chosen in their first year of eligibility (not including the Hall's charter class of 1963).

He's just the sixth Packers player to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, joining Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Reggie White and Brett Favre.

Overall, he'll be the 27th Packers individual to be enshrined in Canton, the sixth in the last nine years, and the first from the Super Bowl XLV team.

"Being able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and kind of run around that stadium as the champ, that is the ultimate, man," Woodson said. "Finally was able to get there with a great team. We're Super Bowl champions forever and now I'm in the Hall of Fame that lasts forever, as well."

The Packers' 27 Hall of Famers is second among all NFL franchises, behind only the 30 claimed by the Chicago Bears.

-Wes Hodkiewicz contributed to this report

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