Charles Woodson named Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award winner

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson was sent into retirement Saturday with one final honor: the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes the NFL player “who demonstrates the qualities of outstanding sportsmanship on the playing field, including fair play, respect for opponents and integrity in competition.”

As such, a donation of $25,000 from the NFL Foundation will be made to the charity of Woodson’s choice.

It is the second year the award has been given, with Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald recognized after last season.

“This is a great honor,” Woodson said. “It’s always a great honor anytime you get voted for anything where your peers vote for it.

“I think what it speaks to is the way that I played the game each time that I went out there on the field. I just tried to give it everything I had every time I stepped on the field. I know that other players respect that and they know that. It didn’t matter if it was my first year or my 18th year, that’s the way I tried to play the game. I did that my whole life, so I think that’s what this award is about.”

Woodson, the No. 4 pick of the 1998 draft after winning the Heisman Trophy at Michigan, played the first eight years of his career with the Raiders before moving on to the Green Bay Packers for seven seasons.

In 2013, he returned to Oakland; he announced in December that the 2015 season would be his last.

The 39-year-old now gets to watch draft classmate Peyton Manning play in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday in what might be Manning's final game.

“The great thing for him is that he has the chance to go out the way all of us would like to go out, as a champion,” Woodson said. “That would be pretty awesome for him. He has a tough task ahead against a great Carolina team.

“I’ll be tuned in the whole time, so it’ll be great to watch.”

As Woodson spoke in a media conference, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was being introduced across the hallway. Woodson figures to get the honor himself in six years as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Until then ... ?

“The future really is kind of unknown at this point,” Woodson said. “I know I have my family, I have kids, and I worry about that in the short term. Right now I’m just enjoying myself. My career as an NFL player is over. It’s almost like a weight off of your shoulders. Now I can just kind of relax and see what’s next on my journey.”