Woodhead talks about never giving up

May, 3, 2011
5/03/11
9:17
PM ET
BOYS TOWN, Neb. -- New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead jokes that if the NFL lockout goes on too long and he needs to find another job, it won't be in sporting goods sales.

A video that has drawn more than 1.4 million YouTube views shows Woodhead posing as a Boston-area Modell's sales clerk trying to sell his No. 39 jersey to customers who don't recognize him.

"I don't think I did that well selling those," Woodhead said Tuesday during a visit to Boys Town.

One husky customer in the video told clerk Woodhead that he didn't want a Woodhead jersey because "he's too little for me."

That comment resonated throughout Woodhead's talk to students at the world-renowned home for troubled youth on the west side of Omaha. Woodhead was the keynote speaker at Boys Town's annual booster banquet Thursday night.

Woodhead grew up about 300 miles west of Omaha, in North Platte, and became the leading career rusher in any division of the NCAA while at tiny Chadron State in western Nebraska. He twice won the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II's top player but went undrafted.

Woodhead, who stands just under 5-feet-8 and weighs 195 pounds, was told over and over how he would never be big enough to succeed in football.

"I went to a school called Chadron State, and I tried to make the best out of it," he said. "But I wasn't too happy about not getting a chance to go the University of Nebraska."

The New York Jets signed Woodhead as a free agent in 2008. He injured his left knee in training camp and spent the season on injured reserve. He played in 10 games in 2009 but was cut after the 2010 opener. He was signed by the Patriots three days later and became not only a fan favorite but a pivotal part of New England's potent offense.

Woodhead rushed for 547 yards, caught 34 passes for 379 yards and scored six touchdowns last season.

He even made it to the quarterfinals in ESPN.com voting for which player should grace the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 12 video game, narrowly losing to Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

Woodhead said he wouldn't have succeeded if he had given in when people as far back as high school told him he couldn't make it in football.

"Eventually I'd get the opportunity," he said. "But even in the NFL it took me three years before I legitimately got a chance. That's the toughest thing to overcome -- people not letting you get that opportunity. What I did was keep working hard because that's the only thing I can control. I couldn't control the coaches."

The students asked him almost 30 questions, such as how fast he can run, who in the NFL hits the hardest, whether he plays video games.

He said football was always on his mind when he was a kid. One day he was nagging his mother for something to do, and she told him to be creative.

"I ended up getting into a bunch of magic markers and drawing a football field on our living room carpet," he said to laughs. "She didn't like it, but I knew football would be a good sport for me."

In an interview after his talk, Woodhead said he was approaching the offseason the same way he would if there were no lockout.

"I've got to stay professional and do my job," he said, "and that's to get ready for a season. I'm trying to stay in shape and make sure I'm ready when a call does come."

Woodhead wouldn't say whether he was working out with teammates.

"We're just trying to keep each other accountable and get ready for the season and just expect there is a season," he said.

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