Sometimes we come at these things from our own selfish points of view.
I remember Rod Woodson as the guy who graciously allowed me to ghost write a story in his name for the 2002 Super Bowl program, one of the most remarkably down-to-earth superstars I’d ever met.
I remember Woodson as the Raiders season fell apart the following season. His career was over because of a knee injury. Yet Woodson never became bitter, although he could relay what he was thinking with a Cheshire cat grin and dry wit.
After Bill Callahan had droned on following a 23-13 loss to the hideous Detroit Lions about the quality of the opponent, Woodson sat in the locker room a day or two later and made it clear the problem was the Raiders, and not the Lions.
“I think we’re OK, because the Detroit Lions are a good football team,” Woodson said. “That’s what our coach said, right?”
Woodson was the author of the single biggest play since the Raiders came back to Oakland in 1995, a 97-yard interception return against the Denver Broncos.
Although his he has been gone since 2003, his legacy exists through one of his mentors. Spend a few minutes with Nnamdi Asomugha, as I did for a story running in Sunday’s papers, and it’s clear the Raiders wouldn’t have the best corner in football had it not been for having a mentor in Woodson.
Asomugha seemed like he was above the fray from the moment he got here, but it’s obvious Woodson’s influence has been considerable.
After Woodson had retired and gone on to the NFL Network, I was working on a Randy Moss-Terrell Owens story heading into the Raiders-Eagles game in 2005. Our phone connection was awful. We got cut off three different times. My own line in Alameda wouldn’t allow me to call out. He called back every time, finally asking me, “Do you have everything you need?”
I’d count on one hand the amount of times that happens in a lifetime of being in the media, but I don’t have to, because it doesn’t happen. Especially from slam-dunk, first-ballot Hall of Famer.
So it came as no surprise when Woodson’s induction speech was heartfelt and touching, including a thanks to Al Davis for allowing him to finish his career as a Raider.
Woodson played only one full season with the Raiders, and maybe he seems bigger than life because they haven’t had a playmaking safety since he left. Or maybe what’s most impressive is that Woodson doesn’t consider himself bigger than life, and never has.