The Journal Gazette
Monday, May 25, 2020 1:00 am

Fort Wayne Sports History

Woodson among best to play in NFL

BLAKE SEBRING | For The Journal Gazette

Rod Woodson could do everything on a football field, and he often did.

A first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, Woodson, then 44, was inducted along with receiver Bob Hayes, offensive lineman Randall McDaniel, defensive lineman Bruce Smith, linebacker Derrick Thomas and owner Ralph Wilson on Aug. 8, 2009.

“I love Fort Wayne, it was a great place to grow up,'' Woodson said during his induction speech. “It kept me rooted in reality and taught me what was truly real for me and important for me as a man. I really want to thank Fort Wayne for accepting me and embracing me throughout my career, and for accepting my family in Fort Wayne for who we were as people.''

During his 17-year NFL career, the Snider graduate played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders as a cornerback, safety and kick returner. He's the only player in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl at three positions. In fact, he was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. He played 10 of his 17 years with the Steelers.

He's also one of only four players to play in three Super Bowls with three different teams. In 1993, he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. He was named to the league's 75th anniversary team, and was ranked as the 30th-best player of all-time by Pro Football Weekly.

Among his classic achievements is holding NFL records for most career interceptions returned for touchdowns with 12, most career interception return yards with 1,482 and the third-highest career interceptions with 71.

“Choose to love rather than hate,'' Woodson said. “Choose to create rather than destroy. Choose to persevere rather than quit. Choose to praise rather than gossip. Choose to heal rather than wound. Choose to pray rather than curse. Choose to live rather than die. Choose Jesus Christ over the world. God bless you.''

Woodson was selected for the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He earned All-America honors as a senior cornerback at Purdue, but he was also a three-time first team All-Big Ten selection.

He intercepted 11 passes and returned three for touchdowns, totaled 320 solo tackles, 445 total tackles and also 1,535 kickoff return yards.

Maybe his best college game was his last one as he dominated the 1986 Old Oaken Bucket game against Indiana. Playing both offense and defense, Woodson made 10 tackles and forced a fumble on defense and rushed 15 times for 93 yards and caught three passes for 67 yards on offense. It was the only time he played offense during his college career. He also returned three punts for 30 yards and two kickoffs for 46 yards.

“I've seen a lot of football, and I've never seen a young man play a game like that,” Purdue coach Leon Burtnett said after the game. “If he's not the best player in this conference, I don't believe I've seen him. I wouldn't trade anybody in the country for Rod Woodson.”

About This Series

Ever wonder what a Northeast Indiana Sports Hall of Fame might include? During a time when it may be difficult to look ahead to great sporting events, The Journal Gazette is going to offer you a look into Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana's fantastic athletic past. Over the next few weeks, we'll offer some suggestions on the people and events which could be featured in such a facility.

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