There Are Woodson Days to Michigan Football

Donald Miralle

Two Days. That's all that remains until opening Saturday in Ann Arbor. All the off season hi jinx, NCAA tomfoolery, hit pieces, scandals, and replays of painful losses will just float away come sunrise on that day. Michigan Stadium has sat dormant for too long, the sidelines empty, clamoring for the rumble of band, team and fans. Our countdown series continues down the home stretch, honoring the players and games of Michigan lore.

It is on days like this that I wish I was still small enough to wear the number two Michigan jersey with a Rose Bowl patch on the shoulders I had when I was 11. Charles Woodson was the best Michigan athlete ever seen on a football field (until Denard Robinson). His career total of 18 interceptions is still second in the Michigan record books, but it was the staggeringly awesome display of superhuman ability he had while making plays that took our breath away.

Woodson was a speed, cover, and tackling monster of a corner inhabiting the body of one man, and any team was foolish to throw in his direction, or kick to him. Michigan couldn't stop at only having him on defense and special teams, either. They had to rewrite the offensive playbook to get him into packages for receiving, and even passing, because he was that good.

He won a Super Bowl, won every conceivable college award in 1997, a Heisman trophy, and a national championship. The crowning moment of his career, when he was called up to the podium to accept the Heisman, is only made sweeter when one sees the look on Peyton Manning's face, because Manning cannot mentally compute that he just lost the biggest award in football to a guy from Ohio. Not every Michigan fan thought he had a chance to win, but the shock of hearing the third Michigan player's name in the same sentence as Heisman still gives me pause, and chills.

In 1999, I saw Woodson in Michigan Stadium, at Commencement of all places, quietly sitting high in the bleachers, away from all the spectators. Everyone around me spoke in hushed voices, in disbelief that he was there. I didn't see an inflated NFL star or even a celebrity, just a guy who loved Michigan enough to attend a commencement ceremony (I never did uncover why he was truly there). After the ceremony concluded, a horde of people went to him for autographs and he was kind enough to allow it, but until that day it wasn't clear to me just how special Michigan's players are. Be they past or present, they are normal guys who have lives and do other things and give back to the university whenever possible, and play football second. That was Charles Woodson.

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