Darren Woodson

Darren Woodson
Darren Woodson answers questions from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in 2012
No. 28
Position: Safety
Personal information
Born: (1969-04-25) April 25, 1969
Phoenix, Arizona
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 219 lb (99 kg)
Career information
High school: Phoenix (AZ) Maryvale
College: Arizona State
NFL Draft: 1992 / Round: 2 / Pick: 37
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Tackles: 1,350
Interceptions: 23
Touchdowns: 2
Forced fumbles: 17
Quarterback Sacks: 11
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Darren Ray Woodson (born April 25, 1969) is a former American football safety in the National Football League. He played his entire career for the Dallas Cowboys from 1992 to 2003. He was drafted by the Cowboys in the second round (37th overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft out of Arizona State University.

Early years

Woodson was raised by his mother, Freddie Luke, in Maryvale, a West Phoenix neighborhood. A running back and linebacker at Maryvale High School, he earned All-Metro Division AAA and All-City honors as a senior, once scoring six touchdowns in a single game. He was a teammate of Phillippi Sparks, who would go on to play nine seasons in the NFL.

In August 2008, ESPNRISE.com named Woodson as one of the best high school players to ever come out of Arizona.[1]

College career

According to a January 23, 1996, article in The New York Times, because Woodson failed to meet NCAA academic qualifications for a scholarship, he walked on at Arizona State University. According to the article, "Woodson built a reputation as a ferocious hitter with a keen eye for football."[2]

An undersized linebacker who wore #6 in college, Woodson was coached by ASU linebackers coach Lovie Smith, who would go on to serve as head coach of the Chicago Bears.

As a sophomore in 1989, he was voted the team's "Most Improved" player, after leading it in total tackles (122) and tackles for loss (5), including a 16 tackle game against Stanford University.

During his senior year, he showed his great athleticism by lining up during 2 games as a defensive end and playing on several occasions as an inside linebacker. Woodson finished his college career with 803 tackles and was invited to play on the Blue–Gray Football Classic.

A three-year starter at outside linebacker for the Sun Devils, Woodson earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 1989 and 1990, honorable mention All-America as a junior and All-Pac-10 second team as a senior. He served as team captain as a senior in 1991 and earned a degree in criminal justice.

In 2005, he was inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame. In April 2009, Woodson was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.[3]

Professional career

The Dallas Cowboys selected Woodson in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft, assigning him jersey #28. Woodson was one of the draft picks Dallas acquired from Minnesota in the Herschel Walker trade. According to a March 16, 2010, article by Gerry Fraley in the Dallas Morning News, while on a scouting trip to Arizona State University before the draft, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo "spotted a linebacker who looked like a safety in waiting. Based on Campo's input, the Cowboys selected Woodson."[4] The change allowed him to go from being considered small to becoming an oversized safety.

Woodson spent his rookie season on the nickel defense and special teams (led team with 19 tackles), then moved into the starting lineup at strong safety in 1993, replacing James Washington. In just his second season, he set a Cowboys franchise record for tackles for a defensive back (102).

As described by Fraley,[4] "Woodson had the run-stopping skills of a strong safety and the pass-coverage ability of a free safety. His ability to cover slot receivers made a significant difference for the defense". On third downs he played the slot-role in the nickel defense, which is normally done by cornerbacks. By having him close to the line of scrimmage, it allowed the team to also use him to stop the run and pressure the quarterback.

Woodson quickly became one of the best safeties in the NFL, being selected to five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams by the AP. He also was the first Cowboys safety since Cliff Harris to be chosen to consecutive Pro Bowls.

He was a member of all three Cowboys Super Bowl champion teams of the 1990s and was described in Sports Illustrated as "one of the hardest hitters in the NFL."

In 2002 he broke the Cowboys career tackling record playing against the Seattle Seahawks, but was overshadowed after Emmitt Smith set the NFL career rushing record during the same game.

Woodson sat out all of the 2004 season due to a herniated disc, that forced him to retire at the end of the year. He is arguably the franchise's best safety and one of its best defensive and special teams players (second in team history with 134 tackles). He was also one of the last remaining players on the active roster from the Cowboys' Super Bowl teams.

NFL statistics

Year Team Games Tackles Fumbles Interceptions
1992DAL 160001.0000000000
1993DAL 1610285170.0133000009
1994DAL 167858200.011051402894T110
1995DAL 169482120.01002462337T17
1996DAL 167861173.021054392109
1997DAL 147352212.0320114141409
1998DAL 167764133.03001111010
1999DAL 157058121.01002535013
2000DAL 117161100.010021261204
2001DAL 168776110.01103114607
2002DAL 10494090.0212111102
2003DAL 168565201.01201-2-2-2015


Style of play

The only Cowboys player to suit up for both Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells, Woodson had a rare ability to play both the run and the pass. According to an article from July 3, 2009, on DallasCowboys.com, "While Woodson delivered his share of big-time hits from the safety position, he was always the team's slot cornerback, covering receivers inside, which is considered to be the toughest spot on the field. In today's game, most teams put their best cover corner in the slot, but Woodson did that for years from the safety position. With that, it helped the Cowboys stop the run as well, having a safety that close to the line of scrimmage without being a liability in coverage."[6]

In a Dec. 30, 2004, article published in Knight Ridder newspapers, Clarence Hill described Woodson as “the most versatile safety in the league and arguably the best in (Dallas Cowboys) history."

An October 31, 1994, article in Sports Illustrated described Woodson as “a masher who doubles as an outside linebacker in passing situations” and “the most productive player on the best defense in the NFL.” According to the author, “A combination of strength, brute-force hitting and speed—4.35 seconds in the 40—makes Woodson the most versatile player on the Super Bowl champions.”[7]

Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson described Woodson as "a player who could hit, tackle and take charge of a secondary. He did all those things with authority. He made his presence known on the football field, but played within the scheme and played smart."[8]

Retirement from football

After missing the 2004 season due to a herniated disc, he officially announced his retirement in December 2004 as the team's all-time leading tackler with 813 career tackles.[9]

At the press conference to announce Woodson's retirement, Bill Parcells, then head coach of the Cowboys, said: "[Woodson is] the kind of guy that makes this profession something that you like to engage in. He's the epitome of a professional. He does epitomize that in every sense. What he did in playing and his approach to the game."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones added: "For 13 years, [Woodson] was everything you could ask for -- unselfish, reliable, dependable, a team player first and a team leader always. He's a living, breathing example of the saying that character does matter."[10]

During his retirement press conference, Woodson said, "When I put that helmet on, I laid it on the line. Not just for this team, but for everyone here. I laid it on the line every time I put that helmet on. I wanted to win so bad, that nothing else really mattered. The most important thing was giving everything I had each time I stepped out on the field. And I think I did that."

Hall of Fame consideration

In October 2008, Woodson became a first-time candidate on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's preliminary list. In September 2011, Woodson was included on the preliminary list of nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.[11]

In February 2011, ESPN.com writer Tim MacMahon wrote that Woodson “deserves serious Hall of Fame consideration and should join the Triplets on the modern side of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.”[12]

On August 4, 2015, the Dallas Cowboys announced that Woodson would be inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.[13] The official ceremony took place Nov. 1 against the Seahawks at AT&T Stadium.[14][15] Woodson is the eighth defensive player inducted into the Ring of Honor, and just the second who played in the 90’s era, along with Charles Haley.[13]

Personal life

Woodson, who has two sons and a daughter from a previous marriage, resides in Dallas where he serves as a Board Member of Make a Wish Foundation (North Texas).[16]

Since his retirement, Woodson has worked as a football analyst for ESPN, appearing on programs such as NFL Live, SportsCenter, and First Take.

In October 2011 Woodson became a founder of GuideHop, an online marketplace for guided tours and activities.[17]


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