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|In his 12th NFL season, Charles Woodson (21) has been a force all over the field. The Packers defensive back sacks Cowboys QB Tony Romo here, forcing a fumble.|
“ I got that because that's what I want to do -- I want to live forever. I want to make a difference. I want people to be thinking about my name until the sun blows up. ” -- Packers CB Charles Woodson, explaining the meaning of one of his tattoosNow he handles multiple roles for a defense that ranks second in the league despite losing two key starters (outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris) to season-ending knee injuries. Woodson has played cornerback, free safety, strong safety and even moved to outside linebacker in some schemes designed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers this season. That versatility has allowed the Packers to match the 6-foot-1, 202-pound former Heisman Trophy winner against an assortment of playmakers. In a 34-12 win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, Woodson shadowed 6-5, 236-pound wide receiver Calvin Johnson and came away with two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown. Woodson was just as masterful in a 17-7 win over Dallas on Nov. 15, when he registered two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception while shutting down Dallas Cowboys star tight end Jason Witten. "It doesn't matter how big or how small you are," said Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox. "He's going to get in your face and let you know that he's ready to play." Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said Woodson's most impressive plays sometimes don't involve pass coverage. Woodson's goal-line tackle of Ravens running back Willis McGahee in a 27-14 win on Dec. 7 is proof. "Charles dove about five yards from the goal line and swept the legs of a pretty good running back," Whitt Jr. said. "That play embodied what he's all about. That's why I say you can't just call him a cornerback. He's played five different positions for us and all at a high level." Woodson's impact on Green Bay isn't confined to game days, either. His presence and leadership is so valued that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continually encourages him to speak his mind because, "Charles has no idea how much these young guys look up to him." When a group of team leaders met after a midseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped the Packers' record to 4-4, it was Woodson who delivered the most moving comments about not letting this team underachieve.
|In November, Woodson donated $2 million of his own money to the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. He visited patient Todd Bonnici here.|
|Woodson made four Pro Bowls as a Raider, but he does not like how his Oakland career ended.|
|After some doubt initially, Woodson loves playing for Green Bay.|
|At Michigan, Woodson won the 1997 Heisman Trophy and became the first predominantly defensive player to win the award.|
“ I don't mean to offend anybody by saying this, but he's the best football player I've ever seen in person. I've never seen anybody dominate a position the way he has. ” -- Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on WoodsonAs Capers said: "We were a middle-of-the-pack defense for our first four games and we've been a top defense ever since. He's a big part of that." Added Rodgers on Woodson: "I don't mean to offend anybody by saying this but he's the best football player I've ever seen in person. I've never seen anybody dominate a position the way he has." Woodson also admitted that his maturation has plenty to do with how his life has evolved in Green Bay. He spends more time there in the offseasons and head coach Mike McCarthy said: "Charles is now just one of the guys." He's got a 10-month-old son (Charles Jr.) with his wife, April. He's also raised awareness for the Children's Hospital through his public speaking engagements. Above all else, Woodson has learned Green Bay isn't such a bad place. He now appreciates the city because it reminds him of his small hometown of Fremont, Ohio. Those residents respect people who work hard and Woodson has felt a similar appreciation in Green Bay. In fact, Koonce chides him occasionally by asking the question: "What about Wisconsin now?" Woodson usually chuckles just as he did four years ago. Only this time he realizes that he's thankful for the path he was forced to take. As Lombardi said, "You can see that he's matured a lot. He's decided that football means a lot to him." Woodson agrees. "A friend once told me that you start figuring out what's important once you hit 30," he said. "And you know what? He was right." For more information on the Charles Woodson's fundraising efforts on behalf of the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, contact the Charles Woodson Foundation by clicking here or the Charles Woodson Fund by clicking here. Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.