Packers great Charles Woodson on Hall of Fame induction: 'This means immortality'
GREEN BAY - Early in the Green Bay Packers’ 2006 training camp, after a night practice, Charles Woodson and Mike McCarthy strolled around the north end of Clarke Hinkle Field under the lights conducting what looked like a deep conversation that seemed to last forever.
It was Woodson’s first camp with the Packers, and at age 29 and entering his ninth season in the NFL he was less than thrilled about playing in what’s by far the NFL’s smallest city.
He had two first-team All-Pro awards and four Pro Bowl appearances on his resume, but all came in his first four seasons with the Oakland Raiders. In the four years that followed, his career was derailed by injuries and a falling out with that organization, and when he hit the free-agent market in the spring of 2006 he was stunned to find the Packers were the only team offering him a good contract.
Woodson reluctantly signed a seven-year, $52 million deal with them, and early in camp his lack of enthusiasm for going to Green Bay must have shown. So McCarthy took that valuable time late at night after a long day in camp that included two practices to let Woodson know how much the Packers wanted him.
“Coach Mike McCarthy just assured me, ‘Hey man, we want you here, you’re going to be a big part of this team,’” Woodson said Sunday morning in a Zoom news conference the day after his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was announced.
“He was trying to basically comfort me as a coach and let me know I’m a big part of the plans there in Green Bay. Those conversations like that we were able to have throughout my career, my seven years there in Green Bay, to the point where me and Mike McCarthy’s relationship became very solid over the years I was there. Certainly appreciate him for making me feel welcome when I didn’t want to be welcome.”
Woodson over time would do a turnaround and very much take to his new franchise and city while also becoming the most respected voice in the Packers’ locker room. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer largely because of what he did in those seven years with the team, including among his major accomplishments: being named the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2009, two more first-team All-Pro honors (’09 and ’11), scoring 10 defensive touchdowns and winning the Super Bowl in the 2010 season.
Woodson was one of three members of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 who took part in the half-hour Zoom conference Sunday – the others were Tom Flores and Drew Pearson – so he fielded only a few questions.
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“Like (Hall president) David Baker says, this is 40,000 years that (bronze) bust will last, so I feel like this means I’m going to live forever,” Woodson said. “None of us will see 40,000 years from now, so that is forever. So this means immortality. This is a great accomplishment I share with each and every player and coach and friend and family member I have that supported me over the years, and this is the ultimate compliment that one player could ever achieve after their playing days are over. I’m so extremely grateful.”
Woodson was one of three players to get in the Hall this year in his first year of eligibility, along with Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson. The other members of the class are longtime scout Bill Nunn, Alan Faneca and John Lynch, along with Pearson and Flores.