Charles Woodson was the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy – beating out none other than Peyton Manning to do it. He was picked #4 overall in the 1998 draft. He has been named to seven Pro Bowls, three All Pro First Teams, three All Pro Second Teams, and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.
Yet, despite all of these accomplishments, I’ve always felt that Woodson has been one of the most underrated football players of my lifetime.
Perhaps it is completely illogical and totally contradictory to list such a bevy of accomplishments and then in the next sentence claim that Charles Woodson is underrated. Perhaps. I think it’s more a testament to just how great Charles Woodson is that, at least in the consciousness of fans, as interpreted by me, his consistent greatness has been underappreciated.
Anyway, lauding Charles Woodson for his career achievements was not the original purpose of this post (although perhaps it should be the purpose of a future post…). Rather, the purpose of this post is to highlight a great post-game speech by Woodson on Sunday after the NFC Championship Game.
Like many things Woodson has done, it has not gotten enough recognition because something else (in this case, Jaycutlergate) has stolen the headlines. But because Woodson called out none other than the President of the United States, something tells me this video will get plenty of play over the next two weeks.
In case you missed it, former Chicagoan and current POTUS Barack Obama said that he would be in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV if the Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Title Game. The Bears, of course, did not beat the Packers, so President Obama ostensibly will remain in the D.C. for the Big Game.
At the end of his remarks to teammates after the epic Bears-Packers tilt on Sunday, Woodson has a few choice words for the Bear-loving Obama:
Hey. It’s time to think about one thing. One. For two weeks, think about one. One mind. Let’s be one heartbeat. One person. One goal. One more game. One. Let’s get it.
And check this: the President don’t wanna come watch us in the Super Bowl? [Other players hoot and holler] That’s right, that’s right, that’s right…we’ll go see him!
Obviously the second part of the speech, in which Woodson calls out President Obama, is the part everyone will focus on. And if the Packers do end up winning the Super Bowl, you can bet Woodson’s comments will be brought up again and again when the team visits the White House as champions.
However, as with most things Woodson does, the flash often overshadows the fundamentals and intangibles he brings to the table.
What makes this a great speech is not the gotcha phrase at the end, it’s the sentiment expressed at the beginning. Green Bay has won five straight games – all of them essentially elimination games and three of them road playoff games – to get to the Super Bowl. They’ve done it with a host of starters on injured reserve. There is no chance they would be in this spot without playing as one, which is exactly what Woodson implores them to do for two more weeks and one more game.
That’s leadership. When it comes from your most talented, experienced, and decorated player, it’s invaluable. That’s Charles Woodson. And this is just one more example of why he’s one of the best football players of his generation. We all know that he does things on the field that few guys can do. What separates Woodson is that he does them off the field too.
Think Mike McCarthy appreciates Woodson? Look at the ear-to-ear smile on McCarthy’s face while Woodson is speaking:
I’m sure McCarthy probably has laid awake more than a few times this year and thanked his lucky stars that he has guys like Woodson, and Aaron Rodgers, and Clay Matthews, and Donald Driver, and others that he can count on for both their talent and their leadership? It’s the reason why the Packers are where they are.
Of course, less than two weeks from now Woodson and the Packers will be facing another team that knows a thing or two about leadership and sticking together in big games. That’s part of what makes Super Bowl XLV such a fascinating matchup. As a certain New York Jets linebacker might say: can’t wait.