Rod Woodson

Rod Woodson
Woodson in June 2001.
No. 26
Position: Safety
Personal information
Born: (1965-03-10) March 10, 1965
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school: R. Nelson Snider
(Fort Wayne, Indiana)
College: Purdue
NFL Draft: 1987 / Round: 1 / Pick: 10
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Tackles: 1,163
Interceptions: 71
Touchdowns: 17
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Roderick Kevin Woodson (born March 10, 1965) is a former American football player who played in the National Football League (NFL) for seventeen seasons. He had a 10-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was a key member of the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV championship team that beat the New York Giants. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, wearing the jersey number 26 throughout his career. He holds the NFL record for interceptions returned for touchdown (12), and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. His 71 career interceptions is the third-most in NFL history. He was an inductee of the Class of 2009 of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009. Woodson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016. Rod played most of his career as a cornerback then switched to safety during the later part of his career.

From his retirement in 2003 to February 2011, Woodson worked as an analyst for the NFL Network (on NFL Total Access and Thursday Night Football) and for the Big Ten Network. He spent the 2011 season as the Raiders' cornerbacks coach. He then returned to broadcasting, working for Westwood One as an analyst on college football (2012) and the NFL (2013) before resuming his coaching career in 2014.

Early years

Woodson was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was the youngest of three siblings, with whom he had close relationships. His father, the late James Woodson, was African-American, and his mother, Linda Jo, was Caucasian. Woodson attended R. Nelson Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He played defensive back and a variety of offensive skill positions and was named Parade and USA Today All-American, all-state his junior and senior seasons. Woodson was named Indiana "Mr. Football" in 1982. In addition to football, he won both the high and low hurdles state championships in both his junior and senior seasons; and played varsity basketball his junior and senior seasons, making all-conference his senior year.

College career

Woodson accepted a full scholarship to play football at Purdue University, in part because of a desire to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.[1] He played primarily as a cornerback and kick returner, but also saw time on offense as a running back and wide receiver. He was named an All-American defensive back in 1985 and 1986; he was named an All-American returner in 1986 and was a three time All-Big Ten first team selection. In his final collegiate game, Woodson gained over 150 combined rushing and receiving yards, in addition to making ten tackles and forcing a fumble, leading Purdue to a victory over arch-rival Indiana.

Woodson left Purdue with 13 individual records, tying the school record with eleven career interceptions. He currently is ranked in the top ten in career interceptions, solo tackles, total tackles, passes deflected, and kickoff return yardage as a Boilermaker.[2]

Woodson was inducted into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.[2]

On December 11, 2014, the Big Ten Network included Woodson on "The Mount Rushmore of Purdue Football", as chosen by online fan voting. Woodson was joined in the honor by Drew Brees, Bob Griese, and Leroy Keyes.

On January 8, 2016, Woodson was selected for induction in the College Football Hall of Fame[3][4][5]

Track and field

In addition to his exploits on the gridiron, Woodson was also an accomplished track and field athlete at Purdue, and was twice awarded All-America honors. He finished second at the 1985 NCAA championships in the 55 meter hurdles and third at the 1987 NCAA championships in the 55 meter hurdles. Woodson held the NCAA 60 meter hurdles record for 10 years.[2] As of January 2009, he still holds the school records in both the 60 and 110 meter hurdles.[2] He earned five Big Ten championships while at Purdue.[6] In 1984, he qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 110 meter hurdles, but elected to continue his football career in the NFL after graduating from Purdue with a degree in criminal justice.[6]

Personal bests

Event Time (seconds) Venue Date
60 meter hurdles 7.61 Indianapolis, Indiana March 7, 1987
60 meters 6.70 Ypsilanti, Michigan February 14, 1987
100 meters 10.26 Champaign, Illinois May 29, 1987
110 meter hurdles 13.29 Irvine, California June 14, 1987

Professional career

In 1987, Woodson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 10th overall draft pick.[2][7] Although the Steelers wanted Woodson to help rebuild their secondary, the team didn't expect Woodson to be available to them so Chuck Noll told defensive coordinator Tony Dungy not to bother with a scouting report on Woodson. However, the Cleveland Browns traded up for Mike Junkin (who went on to be a draft bust) instead of Shane Conlan and the St. Louis Cardinals drafted Kelly Stouffer (who didn't play the 1987 season due to a contract dispute, and ultimately never played for the Cardinals), allowing the Buffalo Bills to draft Conlan and ultimately the Steelers to draft Woodson.[8]

He returned punts and played cornerback for Pittsburgh through the 1996 season. Woodson and the team initially had difficulty coming to terms, and he held out of training camp. To date Woodson is the longest draft choice holdout the Pittsburgh Steelers have ever had. The Steelers and Woodson finally came to terms when he signed his contract on October 28, 1987. Woodson was a World-Class 110-meter hurdler. During his holdout, he ran track on the European track circuit. Woodson had the fourth fastest 110-meter hurdle time in the world. He won the bronze medal at the 1987 USA Olympic festival,and won medals in several IAAF Grand Prix meetings in Europe. Woodson is one of only two athletes in history to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also earn a world ranking in the high hurdles.[9] On November 22, 1987 he recorded his first career interception when he picked off a Boomer Esiason pass and returned it for a 45 yard touchdown.[10]

A banner that hung for years in Three Rivers Stadium stated: "Rod Is God". In 1995, Woodson became the first player to return from reconstructive knee surgery in the same season. He tore his ACL against the Detroit Lions trying to tackle Barry Sanders in the first game and returned to play in Super Bowl XXX between the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys 19 weeks later. In that game, he broke up a pass intended for Michael Irvin, hopped up and pointed at his reconstructed knee.

In a 1992 game against the Houston Oilers, Woodson hit future Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon on a cornerback blitz. The hit gave Moon a concussion and forced him to leave the game.[11]

Woodson's career took a nomadic turn after free agency from Pittsburgh, after the Rooney family elected not to renew his contract over a pay dispute as well as the salary cap. (The team had a similar dispute with Franco Harris in 1984 and later with Alan Faneca in 2008.) Although he remained to raise his family in Pittsburgh and later made amends with the Rooneys, he hopped between three additional franchises, becoming one of the few modern cornerbacks to successfully make a transition to the safety position, following in the footsteps of Ronnie Lott. Woodson signed with the San Francisco 49ers for the 1997 season, the Baltimore Ravens for the years 1998 to 2001 (where he won Super Bowl XXXV), and the Oakland Raiders for 2002 and 2003 (where he appeared in his third Super Bowl). In that Raiders season, 37-year-old Woodson led the NFL in interceptions (8) for the second time in his career. His last interception came on November 16, 2003 against the Minnesota VikingsDaunte Culpepper. Throughout his NFL playing career Woodson would fly home to suburban Pittsburgh on a weekly basis to be with his wife and five children.[12]

NFL records and accomplishments

Woodson is among the NFL's all-time leaders in games played as a defensive back. In his 17 NFL seasons, Woodson recorded 71 interceptions, 1,483 interception return yards, 32 fumble recoveries (15 offensive and 17 defensive), 137 fumble return yards, 4,894 kickoff return yards, 2,362 punt return yards, and 17 touchdowns (12 interception returns, 1 fumble return, 2 kickoff returns, 2 punt returns). He holds the league record for interceptions returned for touchdown with 12, and is tied with 11 other players for the record for most fumble recoveries in a single game (3). His 1,483 interception return yards is the second most in NFL history (Ed Reed has 1,590 yards). His 32 fumble recoveries are a record among defensive players. His 71 interceptions rank third all time.

Woodson was named to the Pro Bowl eleven times, a record for his position. He was also the first player to earn trips to the Pro Bowl at cornerback, safety and kick returner.[13] He was named 1993's NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. He was also a 7-time All-Pro selection. Woodson finished second to Darrell Green in the 1988 NFL Fastest Man Contest.[14]

In 1994, he was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team, one of only five active players to be named to the team. The others were Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Reggie White and Ronnie Lott. In 1999, he was ranked number 87 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. The College Football News also honored him as one of the 100 greatest players of the 20th century.

In 2007, he was ranked number 22 on USA Today list of the 25 best NFL players of the past 25 years.[13]

On January 31, 2009, Woodson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.[15] Woodson named his friend and business associate Tracy Foster as his presenter. Foster runs Woodson's car dealership in Pittsburgh.[16]


Woodson was released by the Oakland Raiders on July 27, 2004 after failing his team physical. His replacement at free safety for the Raiders was Stuart Schweigert, who broke Woodson's career interception record at Purdue.

Woodson now helps coach the defense at Valley Christian Senior High in Dublin, California along with former Raider John Parrella. He also is the head coach of the women's Varsity Basketball team. He lives in Pleasanton, California with his wife Nickie and their five children. His son Demitrius plays safety and wide receiver there as well as kick returner.

From 1994 until 2008 Woodson held an annual youth football camp and activities, the Rod Woodson Youth Week, on the grounds of his former high school. This week-long camp featured current and former NFL players mentoring kids on football skills and the importance of education. There was a cheer camp, basketball game and concert. Woodson funded the majority of the week that also provided academic awards for camp goers and saw hundreds of kids throughout its existence.

Woodson used to split his time between NFL Network studios in Los Angeles, his home in Pleasanton, and a cottage in Coldwater, Michigan. He was also part of the studio team for BBC Sport's NFL coverage in 2007, including Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLIII. In February 2011 he accepted the role as the defensive backs coach of the NFL's Oakland Raiders (his former team).[17]

Woodson is auctioning off a number of items from his personal collection with SCP auctions. It features nearly 70 lots of Woodson's most prominent items including dozens of game balls from his alma mater (Purdue) as well as his 17-year pro career, various MVP awards and his NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team trophy which he was awarded in 1994.


The Raiders hired Woodson as their cornerbacks coach on February 14, 2011. He (along with most of Hue Jackson's Raiders staff) was not retained following the 2011 season. On June 12, 2013, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that Woodson would be serving as an intern coach. On February 9, 2015, it was announced that Woodson would be returning to the Raiders as an assistant defensive backs coach under head coach Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr and defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson. On March 9, 2017, following Robertson's firing earlier that offseason, Woodson was promoted back to cornerbacks coach alongside new safeties coach Brent Vieselmeyer. Woodson was fired following the 2017 season, after Jon Gruden was hired as head coach.

NFL career statistics

Led the league
NFL record
Team won the Super Bowl
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Bold Career high
Interceptions Fumbles Punt Returns Kickoff Returns
Year Team GP Int Yds TD Lng FF FR Yds TD PR Yds TD Lng KR Yds TD Lng Avg
1987 PIT 8 1 45 1 45 0 2 0 0 16 135 0 20 13 290 0 36 22.3
1988 PIT 16 4 98 0 29 1 3 2 0 33 281 0 28 37 850 1 92 23.0
1989 PIT 15 3 39 0 39 4 4 1 0 29 207 0 20 36 982 1 84 27.3
1990 PIT 16 5 67 0 34 4 1 0 0 38 398 1 52 35 764 0 49 21.8
1991 PIT 15 3 72 0 41 1 3 15 0 28 320 0 40 44 880 0 47 20.0
1992 PIT 16 4 90 0 57 4 1 9 0 32 364 1 80 25 469 0 32 18.8
1993 PIT 16 8 138 1 63 2 1 0 0 42 338 0 39 15 294 0 44 19.6
1994 PIT 15 4 109 2 37 3 1 0 0 39 319 0 42 15 365 0 54 24.3
1995 PIT 1 0 0 0 - 0 0 0 0
1996 PIT 16 6 121 1 43 0 3 42 1
1997 SF 14 3 81 0 41 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0
1998 BAL 16 6 108 2 60 0 0 0 0
1999 BAL 16 7 195 2 66 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 7
2000 BAL 16 4 20 0 18 2 3 4 0
2001 BAL 16 3 57 1 47 1 1 0 0
2002 OAK 16 8 225 2 98 0 3 64 0
2003 OAK 10 2 18 0 13 0 1 0 0
Career 238 71 1,483 12 98 20 32 137 1 260 2,362 2 80 220 4,894 2 92 22.2


  1. Hayes, Reggie (2009-08-03). "Tracing Woodson's path to greatness". The News-Sentinel. Fort Wayne, Indiana. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Former Boilermaker Rod Woodson Elected To Pro Football Hall Of Fame". Purdue University. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  3. "NFF Proudly Announces Impressive 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class". National Football Foundation. 2016-01-08.
  4. Thompson, Ken (2016-01-08). "Purdue's Rod Woodson elected to College Hall of Fame". The Indianapolis Star.
  5. "Woodson Elected To College Football HOF". Purdue University. 2016-01-08.
  6. 1 2 Jenkins, TJ (2009-10-30). "Rod Woodson: Boilin' Over At Purdue".
  7. "1987 NFL Draft".
  8. Labriola, Bob (April 5, 2011). "Getting Woodson was pure luck".
  9. Bouchette, Ed (July 22, 2008). "Steelers don't expect holdouts". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  10. "I'll take that!". July 30, 2009.
  11. "Moon Passes Tests After Concussion". The New York Times. November 4, 1992.
  12. Bouchette, Ed (January 9, 2001). "Ravens' Woodson keeps Pittsburgh roots". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  13. 1 2 "Woodson set new standard in backfield". USA Today. 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
  14. Attner, Paul (1993-11-29). "The Intimidator". The Sporting News. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
  15. Hall of Fame: Woodson’s greatness went beyond stats Archived 2009-02-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. The Class of 2009 presenters
  17. "BBC announce studio team". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
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