FORT WAYNE – Rod Woodson remembers the stands just as they were Friday – packed as he made play after play to the roar of Snider fans.
From there, he went to Purdue, and then to the NFL, where he put together a Hall of Fame career and became one of the best defensive backs to ever play.
He returned to Spuller Stadium on Friday to recognize Snider cross country runner Kaitelyn Vachon, who is among 10 finalists for an award for excellence presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the U.S. Army.
This is great, Woodson said after giving a halftime speech and presenting Vachon with a commemorative plaque from the organizations. Where my kids go to school, the stands aren’t full like this in California, so to come back in the Midwest and see the stands the same way, full like this and the kids tailgating – in high school.
The spirit remained the same for a former player who’s watched the game change so much, both during and after his career.
Woodson played with the Pittsburgh Steelers for 10 of his 17 NFL seasons. It was a team known for its hard-hitting defense.
Woodson was one of the best at making those kinds of plays. Now, as a NFL Network analyst, he’s busy talking about new targeting rules and the repercussions of concussions in his sport.
You can’t let the rules slow you down, said Woodson, who is third all-time in interceptions (71) and first in the NFL record books in interception returns for touchdowns (12). To me, still, the really good defenders in the National Football League – and even in college – don’t let the rules slow them down.
The 2009 Hall of Fame inductee noted that concussions are an issue throughout youth sports, not just in football, which faces stigma because of all the inherent contact.
I don’t think the game’s in trouble, Woodson said. Kids get concussions all the time on the playground. Soccer – girl’s soccer – is a high risk of getting concussions. You don’t talk about that. You talk about the sport that’s more, as we call it, violent.
It is what it is. I don’t think it’s going to hinder kids playing.