WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Former Purdue All-America defensive back Rod Woodson was honored during Saturday’s football game against Northwestern for his election to the College Football Hall of Fame.
The Football Bowl Subdivision Class of 2016 was announced in January in Scottsdale, Arizona, and includes 14 players and two coaches. The class was chosen from a national ballot of 76 All-American players and five elite coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and 92 players and 27 coaches from the divisional ranks.
Woodson, who played for head coach Leon Burtnett from 1983 to 1986, is the 16th Boilermaker (11 players and five coaches) to be chosen for college football’s ultimate shrine. Woodson is the fifth Purdue player to be elected in the last 11 years, following quarterback Mike Phipps in 2006, quarterback Mark Herrmann in 2010, halfback Otis Armstrong in 2012 and defensive tackle Dave Butz in 2014.
“It’s a huge honor,” Woodson said upon being elected. “Just thinking about all the players who have played collegiate football throughout the years, and to think a young kid from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who went to Snider High School and Purdue University, could be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame is just an accomplishment and an honor that I’ll cherish forever.”
Woodson, who was inducted into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, will join quarterback Bob Griese as the only Boilermakers to be enshrined in the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics, College Football and Pro Football halls of fame.
“Without a doubt, Rod is the most extraordinary athlete that I was associated with during my playing days at Purdue and in the NFL,” said Calvin Williams, who was teammates with Woodson in 1985 and 1986. “His selection to the College Football Hall of Fame is well deserved for a player of his stature.”
As a senior with the Boilermakers, Woodson was a consensus All-American and runner-up for the Jim Thorpe Award. He was a first team All-Big Ten selection his sophomore, junior and senior seasons – one of only four players in school history to be honored three times. Woodson tied the Purdue career record with 11 interceptions (since broken and now tied for third) and owned the record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with three (since broken and now second) and for solo tackles with 320 (also now second). He also ranks fourth in total tackles (445) and ninth in pass breakups (29). He left Purdue as the career leader with 1,535 kickoff return yards, which now ranks fifth.
In his final collegiate game Nov. 22, 1986, Woodson played both ways in the Boilermakers’ 17-15 Old Oaken Bucket victory over Indiana. He started at tailback and rushed for a team season-high 93 yards on 15 carries while catching three passes for 67 yards. At his usual cornerback position, he recorded 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one forced fumble. He also returned three punts for 30 yards and two kickoffs for 46 yards. In all, Woodson appeared in an astounding 137 plays, approximately 90 percent of the game.
“I’ve seen a lot of football, and I’ve never seen a young man play a game like that,” Burtnett said afterwards of Woodson. “If he’s not the best player in this conference, I don’t believe I’ve seen him. I wouldn’t trade anybody in the country for Rod Woodson.”
In the 1987 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers picked Woodson with the 10th overall pick. He played defensive back for 17 seasons with the Steelers (1987-96), San Francisco 49ers (1997), Baltimore Ravens (1998-2001) and Oakland Raiders (2002-03). He retired with 71 interceptions, the third-most in NFL history, a then-league-record 1,483 interception return yards, a league-record 12 interception returns for touchdowns and 32 fumble recoveries. Woodson was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, and, in 1994, he was one of only five active players to be selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
Woodson is one of only 10 players in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl with three different teams: XXX with the Steelers, XXXV with the Ravens (a 34-7 win over the New York Giants) and XXXVII with the Raiders. He was the 1993 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Woodson became just the 62nd individual elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and he was the fourth individual with Purdue ties to be enshrined, following quarterback Len Dawson (1987), Griese (1990), and running back and assistant coach Hank Stram (2003).
Woodson also ran track at Purdue and twice earned All-America honors in the hurdles. He was a five-time Big Ten champion and still boasts school records in the 60- and 110-meter hurdles.
Following his retirement from the NFL, Woodson worked as an analyst for the NFL Network and Big Ten Network from 2003 to 2011. He spent the 2011 season as the Raiders’ cornerbacks coach before resuming his broadcasting career with Westwood One as a college football analyst in 2012 and 2013. Woodson interned with the Steelers in training camp in 2013 and participated in the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program with the Denver Broncos during the 2014 offseason. Woodson returned to Oakland as assistant defensive backs coach in 2015.
Woodson and his wife, Nickie, have five children.
The Class of 2016 will be inducted at the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The inductees and their accomplishments will be immortalized forever at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Of the 5.12 million individuals who have played or coached college football over the past 147 years, only 963 players and 209 coaches have been immortalized in the Hall of Fame. In other words, only two ten-thousandths of one percent (.0002) of those who have been involved in the game have been deemed worthy of the honor.
Two other former Boilermakers, wide receivers Larry Burton (1973-74) and Taylor Stubblefield (2001-04), were on the 2016 ballot.