One former Green Bay Packers defensive back will have to wait another year before potentially seeing his name enshrined in Canton. Although safety LeRoy Butler missed the cut this year following his selection as a Finalist for the 2021 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of his eventual successors will be there waiting for him in the future.
Charles Woodson is officially heading to the Hall of Fame. Woodson's selection was announced on Saturday evening as part of the NFL Honors.
The former Packers and Oakland Raiders’ cornerback and safety was one of the NFL’s most feared defensive backs during his career. Woodson’s NFL career was saddled with great expectations before it even began — he became the first and only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, doing so in his final season for the University of Michigan in 1997. The Raiders then made him the fourth overall draft pick in 1998.
In Oakland, Woodson’s career got off to a tremendous start, as he earned four straight Pro Bowl nods and two first-team All-Pro honors in his first four seasons. However, he battled some injuries over the next four years, playing in just 42 of a possible 64 games, and left as a free agent.
During the 2006 offseason, it seemed that few if any NFL teams were willing to take a chance on Woodson, who drew little interest from other teams around the league. According to ESPN reporting from that spring, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Packers were the only teams to show any significant interest in signing Woodson, who reluctantly inked a seven-year contract with the Packers almost six weeks after the start of free agency.
In Green Bay, Woodson stayed healthy and his play soared to new heights. He made four straight Pro Bowls from 2008 through 2011 and picked up another two first-team All-Pro awards, but his finest season was in 2009 when he also earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. That season saw him lead the league with a career-high nine interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. Woodson posted seven or more picks in four different seasons with the Packers and served as the team’s center and emotional leader on defense for much of his tenure.
The culmination of Woodson’s and the Packers’ success would come in 2010, when he would help the Packers earn a victory in Super Bowl XLV. Woodson famously broke his collarbone late in the first half of that game, however, forcing him to miss the rest of the contest. Overcome with emotion, he was unable to speak to his teammates during halftime, but the defense rallied and helped the Packers earn a 31-25 victory.
Woodson remained healthy until the final year of his Packers career in 2012, when he had moved to a full-time safety/slot cornerback role. That season saw him break his collarbone again, and he missed the final nine games of the regular season before returning for the team’s two postseason games. The Packers then released the 36-year-old at the end of the season, but Woodson was not quite done with football. He would go on to sign with his old team, the Raiders, and played three more seasons at safety before retiring at age 39 after the 2015 campaign.
In his 18-year career, Woodson played in 254 games and recorded 1220 tackles, 65 interceptions, 183 pass breakups, 33 forced fumbles, 20 sacks, and 13 total touchdowns — 11 on interception returns and two on fumbles. He picked up more than half of his career interceptions and sacks in just seven seasons with the Packers, picking off 39 passes and recording ten of his scoring returns during his tenure in Green Bay.
After his retirement, Woodson joined ESPN as a studio analyst, and he continues to provide exceptional pregame and halftime analysis to this day.
The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this summer. Congratulations to Charles on his well-deserved upcoming enshrinement in Canton!