Woodson’s dominance as a defensive back (seven interceptions), receiver (11 catches for 231 yards, 1 TD) and punt returner (1 TD) had Michigan undefeated at 11-0 when Heisman voters gave him the award over Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesSporting News Archive
1998: Making Michigan an undefeated co-national champion
The Wolverines held off Ryan Leaf and Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl and finished the 1997 season at 12-0 with a No. 1 ranking in the AP poll. Nebraska (13-0) finished with the top ranking in the Coaches Poll. Woodson proved why he was the face of the co-national champions when he intercepted Leaf in the end zone during the first half.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesThe Sporting News
1998: Off to Oakland
Woodson may have beaten out Manning for the Heisman and Leaf in the Rose Bowl, but both QBs – plus defensive end Andre Wadsworth – were drafted ahead of him when the Raiders pulled the cornerback off the board at No. 4. Woodson rewarded Oakland with a Defensive Rookie of the Year season that included five interceptions.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
2003: Super Bowl disappointment
Just like in the Rose Bowl, Woodson came up with an interception on the biggest stage, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Buccaneers rolled over his Raiders 48-21.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
2006: Hello, Green Bay
The Raiders followed their Super Bowl loss with three straight losing seasons, and Woodson missed 10 games in 2005. He was beginning to get criticized for being injury-prone and not matching the promise he showed during his rookie year. A day after Packers quarterback Brett Favre announced he’d return for a 16th season, Woodson signed a seven-year, $52 million deal with Green Bay. The Raiders made no attempt to re-sign him, and Tampa Bay was reportedly the only team other than the Packers with serious interest. Woodson intercepted a then-career-high eight passes and played in all 16 games in his first season with the Packers.
Getty ImagesDarren Hauck
2009: At the top of his game
Woodson re-energized his career in Green Bay, and he hit his pinnacle during a dominant 2009 season. The NFL’s 2009 Defensive Player of the Year returned three of his league-high nine interceptions for touchdowns and was a frequent and effective blitzer in coordinator Dom Capers’ creative defense. Woodson added two sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to his interception total and seemed to be around the ball on every play.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
2010: A bittersweet Super Bowl win
Woodson didn’t repeat the personal success of his 2009 season, but he became a champion when the Packers sneaked into the playoffs, got hot and won the Super Bowl. Green Bay beat Pittsburgh 31-25 in the big game, but Woodson broke his collarbone in the second quarter and had to hoist the Super Bowl trophy with one arm in a sling. 'I just asked the guys to understand how much I wanted it,' Woodson told reporters after the game.
Getty ImagesDoug Pensinger
2012: Injured and released in Green Bay
Woodson bounced back from the collarbone injury with a league-leading seven interceptions in 2011, but he suffered the same injury and missed nine games in 2012 while moving from cornerback to safety as an acknowledgement that he was slowing down. He intercepted just one pass that season, and the Packers released Woodson, who had two years left on his contract, in February 2013.
USA TODAY SportsScott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
2013: Back in Silver and Black
There was speculation Woodson, 36, would retire after the Packers released him, but he decided to return to his original team on a one-year, $4.3 million deal. The Raiders didn’t have a winning record or make the playoffs in his seven years away, so he received a much better welcome than he did a goodbye when he left in 2006.
Woodson hasn’t missed a game in three seasons since returning to Oakland, finally dispelling concerns about his durability. One day after facing the Packers for the first time since they released him, Woodson announced that he’d retire at the end of the 2015 season. His five interceptions this season rank him fifth all time (tied with Ken Riley) with 65. He’s an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time All-Pro. Could he keep playing past age 39 if he wanted to? 'Honestly, I think physically I could do it,' Woodson told reporters. 'My body has responded, but mentally it's not there, not going to happen.'