Rod Woodson can claim something of a triple crown.
Already a member of Purdue’s Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Fort Wayne native was one of 14 players in the latest class selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
"I definitely appreciate it," Woodson said. "It’s a huge honor. Just thinking about all the players who have played collegiate football throughout the years and to think a young kid from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who went to Snider High School and Purdue University, to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame is just an honor that I’ll cherish forever."
A three-time All-Big Ten selection from 1984 to 1986, Woodson started all 45 games of his career at Purdue. He finished his time in West Lafayette with 444 tackles and 11 interceptions.
"(I recall) going through the recruiting process of taking my official visits to different universities, seeing where I fit, and Purdue, for me, was just a perfect fit," Woodson said. "Close to home because I’m from Fort Wayne, but not too far away from home so I could still see my mom and dad and brothers and family and friends."
Woodson, 50, is the 11th Boilermakers player to head to the College Football Hall of Fame and the first since defensive tackle Dave Butz, inducted in 2014.
Woodson credited Purdue coach Leon Burtnett, defensive backs coach Ron Mims and recruiter Ray Sherman for helping him make the most of his time in college.
"I think throughout my career Leon Burtnett was an instrumental person for me," Woodson said. "Ron Mims definitely developed me and my skill set coming from high school. And then Ray Sherman, who was my recruiter from Fort Wayne, was the main reason I went to Purdue. So those main (people) helped me develop my life skills, I think. Definitely helped me develop my skills on the field."
Woodson said it came down to the way those three men treated him.
"They brought me into the Boilermaker family," Woodson said. "And all the things that happened in my time frame of being at Purdue, they took me in. They forgave me when I did make mistakes. They allowed me to make mistakes as a young adult, which we all do. They forgave me for them.
"And for me, I think that made me feel comfortable. It kind of made me feel like I was at home. And I think with that, I wanted to give back to them by performing at my best on the athletic field. And, hopefully, I did that for them."
Burnett once said he would not trade Woodson for any player in the nation.
Pittsburgh drafted Woodson into the NFL in 1987 with the No. 10 overall pick. He played defensive back for 17 seasons with the Steelers (1987-96), San Francisco (1997), Baltimore (1998-2001) and Oakland (2002-03). He retired with 71 interceptions, the third-most in NFL history. Woodson was the fourth individual with Purdue ties to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, following quarterbacks Len Dawson (1987) and Bob Griese (1990) and running back and assistant coach Hank Stram (2003).
Woodson joins Griese as the only Boilermakers to be enshrined in the Purdue, College Football and Pro Football halls of fame.
Woodson was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, and, in 1994, he was one of only five active players to be selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team. He is one of only 10 players in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl three times with three teams: XXX with the Steelers, XXXV with the Ravens (a 34-7 win over the New York Giants) and XXXVII with the Raiders. He was the 1993 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Following his retirement from the NFL, Woodson was an analyst for the NFL Network and Big Ten Network from 2003 to 2011. He spent the 2011 season as the Raiders’ cornerbacks coach before resuming his broadcasting career with Westwood One as a college football analyst in 2012 and 2013. Woodson interned with the Steelers in training camp in 2013 and participated in the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program with the Denver Broncos during the 2014 offseason. Woodson returned to Oakland as assistant defensive backs coach in 2015.
Former Washington State offensive lineman Mike Utley, who suffered a spinal cord injury during an NFL game and was paralyzed, Florida State’s Derrick Brooks and Iowa State’s Troy Davis also join this year’s College Football Hall of Fame class.
The latest group, which will be inducted in December, was announced Friday by the National Football Foundation. The rest of the class includes LSU’s Bert Jones, UNLV’s Randall Cunningham, Ohio State’s Tom Cousineau, North Carolina’s William Fuller, Wisconsin’s Tim Krumrie, Harvard’s Pat McInally, Colorado’s Herb Orvis, Georgia’s Scott Woerner, Ashland’s Bill Royce and Nebraska Omaha’s Marlin Briscoe. The two coach inductees are Bill Bowles of New Hampshire and Frank Girardi of Lycoming (Pennsylvania).