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Charles Woodson, University of Michigan

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There have been countless icons throughout Michigan history; elite coaches such as Yost, Crisler, and Schembechler and legendary players such as Heston, Harmon, Ford, Oosterbaan, Cramer, Mandich, Dierdorf, Leach, Howard, Woodson and Long have all made their marks on one of the most prestigious college football programs in the country. Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player in the country to win the Heisman, a two-time First Team All-American, one of the leaders on Michigan’s 1997 National Championship team, a seven-time Pro-Bowler, the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, on, and on, and on. His laundry list of accolades puts him near the forefront as one of the best players ever to don the winged helmet and suit up for Michigan.

Woodson is definitely a legend – one of the all-time greats – and his accomplishments on the field are well-known, but his off-the-field contributions are just as significant, if not as widely recognized. For years, Michigan’s football players have visited the C.S. Mott Childrens’ Hospital in Ann Arbor to hang out with the kids and give them a chance to meet some of their heroes, and Woodson was no exception. For U of M players and the many other players at other programs who have done similar work in the community, such visits have an incredibly powerful impact, even though Woodson was not a regular visitor in college. After his firstborn son was born without serious health issues, Woodson was reminded of the kids in Mott who were not so fortunate and decided that it was time to give back some of the money that he’s made during his long NFL career.

In late 2009, Charles Woodson donated two million dollars in an effort to help open the new C.S. Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital. The hospital – a state-of-the-art, $754 million, 12 story facility with 348 beds – will open up in the fall of next year. As a part of that donation, there will be funds for the new Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund for pediatric research on life-threatening diseases. In addition, the lobby of the new hospital will be named after Woodson. He visits and encourages others to donate to the Children’s Hospital, providing support in ways other than just signing a check. Woodson’s contributions to Mott will benefit the patients, families, doctors, and researchers who will use this brand new facility for years.

Many college football fans are losing faith in the game we love, and it’s easy to lose sight of all the good that’s being done amidst the cheating, scandal, and immorality. That’s why it’s important to celebrate heroes like Woodson, athletes who continue to give back and make a positive impact long after their college careers have finished.

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