- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Darren Woodson’s career with the Dallas Cowboys was barely two weeks old when then-coach Jimmy Johnson took the rookies to an empty Texas Stadium.
He had them go on the star at midfield and look around.
“I remember looking up at that old stadium and looking at the rafters and seeing Bob Lilly and Lee Roy Jordan and Randy White and [Roger] Staubach and these big names and always felt like that’s where I want to be,” Woodson said. “That’s greatness. That’s being special. That’s laying it on the line for the organization. And as a kid -- I was 21 years old -- and that’s where I wanted to be.”
A day Woodson said he always dreamed about came true Tuesday when he was selected for induction into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, where he will join Lilly, Jordan, White and Staubach.
Woodson will become the 21st member of the exclusive club on Nov. 1 when the Cowboys take on the Seattle Seahawks at AT&T Stadium.
“Darren was a difference-maker,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He was a difference-maker off the field and he was a difference-maker on the field. We were a different defense because he was out there. Charley Haley, recently inducted into our Ring of Honor, inducted this coming Sunday to the Hall of Fame as a player ... I’ve often said we didn’t know how to spell Super Bowl in a tongue-and-cheek way without Haley. The same can be said of Darren Woodson and his contribution that he made to our defense.”
Woodson is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in tackles with 1,350. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was an All-Pro pick four times from 1992-2003. He came to the Cowboy as a linebacker from Arizona State and became one of the best safeties in the NFL, helping the Cowboys to three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
In an era defined by the Triplets -- Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith -- Woodson becomes the second defensive player from the era to earn Ring of Honor status, joining Haley.
Woodson’s career ended prematurely because of a back injury and he wondered if one day he would be honored with the greatest players in franchise history.
“So many great players that are in that Ring,” Woodson said, “and it’s an absolute honor to be on that same list and go up there in the rafters.”