The Raiders didn’t beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday, October 10, in Oakland but despite the loss, Raider cornerback and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson reminded us, in case we forgot, that he can absolutely ball.
For the first time in his long career, Woodson intercepted passes thrown by Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, not once but twice; at the end of the first half and again in the third quarter. His performance ties him with Ed Reed for sixth place on the all-time NFL list for interceptions. It is his fourth interception this season so far…
Not too shabby for a player who recently celebrated his 39th birthday and his 18th season in the league. The beloved Woodson has come to symbolize for the Raiders: class, humility, and toughness. Nursing a shoulder injury, Woodson’s age defying performance left a mark on his teammates and fans alike. Raider safety Larry Asante said, “He’s 39-years old, but he’s playing like he’s 21.” “He’s just a special player. Hats off to him, man, at the age of 39 to be able to go out there and perform like that, there’s nothing like it. Only he can do that.” “He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game,” said defensive end Khalil Mack.
Woodson and Manning have traveled similar paths since their playing days on the collegiate gridiron. In 1998, Manning and Woodson were members of the NFL draft class. Manning was drafted #1 and Woodson #4. A year earlier Woodson and Manning competed for the 1997 Heisman Trophy which was awarded to Woodson.
The two warriors have met numerous times over the years but it was this game that reminded Manning and the rest of the league why his Raider teammates have given him the nickname “first ballot,” as in Woodson will get into the NFL Hall of Fame on the first ballot…no doubt about it, says, well…everybody.
Sports pundits expect that Woodson and Manning may be on the podium in Canton at the same time. If so, they would become a part of a very elite group. In the history of the NFL Draft, it has happened only five times – where two future hall of famers have been a part of the same draft class, drafted in the 1-4 positions.
When asked by reporters about the play of Woodson, Manning jokingly said, “Took him 18 years. Probably offsets the two TDs I threw on him last year. Call it a wash.” As for Woodson, well, he really didn’t want to talk about the interceptions after the game. “Really don’t even want to talk about the interceptions, because of the fact that we did lose the game,” said Woodson. “It was all about winning the game, and that was a big deal all week about that aspect of it, but it’s never about that. Those things are shiny things, shiny toys that you like, but it’s about wins and losses.”
The Oakland Raiders are 2-3, and 3rd in the AFC Western Division. Next up: Raiders v. Chargers, Sunday, October 25, Qualcomm Stadium.