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Patriots RB Woodhead plays big in Super Bowl

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

For a moment, no one was bigger than 5-foot-8 Danny Woodhead.

The New England running back's 4-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half gave the New England Patriots a 10-9 halftime lead in the Super Bowl.

''I was able to get open, and Tom (Brady) did a good job of putting the ball right on me,'' he said. ''I had to do the easy part, and that was to catch it.''

But the Patriots lost 21-17 to the New York Giants on Sunday, and Woodhead's moment of glory didn't soothe him in the moments after the game.

''It's as tough of a loss as I think I've ever had,'' he said. ''You get so close, and it doesn't end up the way you'd like it. It's a tough pill to swallow.''

It's amazing that the 27-year-old Woodhead was even on football's biggest stage, considering how far he's come to get there.

He starred at North Platte High School in Nebraska, but was overlooked by big schools - his small stature an obvious factor. Woodhead ended up going to Chadron State, a Division II program in the northern part of the Nebraska panhandle.

It's the same school that produced former Buffalo Bills standout Don Beebe, but Woodhead quickly made a name for himself there. He won the Harlon Hill Trophy in 2006 and 2007 as the nation's top Division II player. Woodhead also finished his career with a then-NCAA record 7,962 yards rushing.

But those numbers weren't enough to impress pro scouts, who shied away because of his size. He wasn't even invited to the NFL combine, and went undrafted - but was undeterred from achieving his dream.

The New York Jets signed him as a free agent in 2008, but he missed the season with a knee injury. He played sparingly for the Jets the following year, but was cut at the start of the 2010 season. The Patriots signed him four days later, and he has been a solid contributor - and fan favorite - ever since.

He ran for 547 yards, averaged a team-record 5.6 yards per carry and caught 34 passes for 379 yards last year. This season, he ran for 351 yards, caught 18 passes for 157 yards and returned 20 kickoffs for a 21.9-yard average.

Woodhead finished Sunday's game with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown and had seven carries for 18 yards, a larger workload than usual. And, it came in the biggest game of his career.

''I approach every week the same, and that is to be ready for whatever can be thrown at me,'' he said. ''No matter how many carries or receptions I may get, I just feel like I need to stay ready all the time.''

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap

Tagged: Patriots, Danny Woodhead

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