Packers great Charles Woodson focuses on family in Hall of Fame speech

Pete Dougherty
Packers News
Charles Woodson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday, August 8, 2021. Woodson was presented by mother Georgia Woodson.

Charles Woodson’s induction speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame didn’t have the unfailing poise he showed as an NFL star.

But choked up as he was as the final inductee of Sunday’s ceremony in Canton, Ohio, it still carried the same dignity and grace he displayed during his seven Hall-of-Fame-clinching seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

From his surprise opening of singing the first two lines of Boyz II Men’s “A Song for Mama” to his asking essentially everyone in the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to stand up and join him in induction, Woodson used his 10-minute, teary-eyed speech to thank everyone who helped him get there. His mantra, repeated several times throughout the speech, was without you I would not be here.

He started with his mother, Georgia Woodson, who was on stage as his presenter.

Charles Woodson sings to his mother Georgia Woodson during his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech. Charles Woodson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday, August 8, 2021. Woodson was presented by mother Georgia Woodson.

“Look no further than my mama to find out where I get it from,” he said. “My passion, how hard I work, that comes from mother. I watched her every day as a child get up, work her fingers to the bone to make sure she provided for her family. For myself, my brother and my sister. Single-parent household. You hear people say a woman can’t raise a man. I call bull(crap). My mama raised two of’em.”

Along the way Woodson referenced the two teams he played for in the NFL – the Oakland Raiders at the start and finish of his 18 years in the league, and the Packers, where he had the seven seasons that put him over the top as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That includes a 2009 season in which he was named defensive player of the year.

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But he spent most of his 10 minutes talking about his family, including his wife, April; sister, Shannon; and brother, Terry Carter.

Terry was a former high school football star Charles had tried to emulate while growing up in Fremont, Ohio.

“My brother, my rabbit who I was chasing as a child, you built for this game through tough love,” Woodson said. “I remember we would wrestle as kids and fight, you would hold me down, and you would make that fist and put your knuckle out and just hit me in the same place until my skin would raise, and I’d have to sit there and endure that pain.

“But when I go back and think about 2002 and going through the playoffs (with Oakland) with a broken leg, and I think about the coach telling me, ‘You gotta practice if you’re going to play’, and I had to go out there and run around on that leg every day and practice just to prove I could do it on Sunday. I did that and we made it to the Super Bowl. … Without you, I am not here.”

He also talked about his sister, Shannon, who unlike Terry Carter was not in attendance. Woodson’s voice cracked, as it did several times in the speech, when he said she was unable to attend because of COVID-19.

“Dealing with COVID, she’s fighting,” Woodson said. “Throughout my career I can remember getting calls from sister periodically, whether I was riding down the 880 freeway in Oakland or Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay, she would hit me with these three words: Hey little brother, I love you. It always seemed to hit me at the right time to get me through the day or get me through the week. Sister, I just want you to know we’re thinking about you, wish you were here, I love you. Without you I am not here.”

Woodson was one of eight men inducted Sunday as the 2021 Hall class. The others were Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch, Alan Faneca, Drew Pearson, Tom Flores and Bill Nunn. 

Woodson becomes the 27th member of the Packers’ organization to be inducted into the Hall. That’s the second most in the NFL, behind the Chicago Bears’ 30.