This story originally ran in the program for the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6, 2016, where Rod Woodson was officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
- A 1986 consensus First Team All-American and the runner-up in the Jim Thorpe (top national defensive back) balloting.
- One of only four Boilermaker football players to be named All-Big Ten three times.
- Ended his stellar Purdue career holding 13 individual records.
- Coached by Leon Burtnett.
- Becomes the eighth Boilermaker player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Rod Woodson’s final collegiate game in 1986 may have been his best game. At least, it left a lasting impression on his coach at Purdue, Leon Burtnett, who watched in awe as Woodson put on a dazzling offensive-defensive-special teams display that capped off a consensus All-America season.
In a 17-15 victory over rival Indiana, Woodson started at tailback and rushed for 93 yards and caught three passes for 67 yards. He recorded 10 tackles, one pass breakup and a forced fumble on defense. Then to top it off, he returned three punts for 30 yards and two kickoffs for 46 yards.
“I’ve seen a lot of football, and I’ve never seen a young man play a game like that,” Burtnett said after the contest in which Woodson appeared in a phenomenal 137 plays.
That performance certainly was enough to impress the Pittsburgh Steelers, who picked the 6-foot, 205-pound Woodson 10th overall in the 1987 NFL Draft. Woodson played defensive back 17 seasons combined with the Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders. He made 11 Pro Bowls during this career and reached the Super Bowl with three different teams: XXX (Steelers), XXXV (Ravens) and XXXVII (Raiders).
Displaying his overall athletic ability, Woodson ran track for the Boilermakers and twice was an All-America in the hurdles. A five-time Big Ten Champion, he still owns school records in the 60-and 110-meter hurdles heading into the 2016 track season. But that’s really just an asterisk to his football career at cornerback.
“Purdue for me was just a perfect fit,” said Woodson upon learning of his Hall induction. “Close to home (Fort Wayne, Indiana)… so I could still see my mom and dad and brothers and family and friends… (The coaches at Purdue), the way they treated me. They brought me into their family.”
As a result, Woodson excelled on the football field where he was First-Team All-Big Ten his sophomore through senior seasons, and he is still one of only four Boilermaker football players to be named All-Big Ten three times.
From 1983-86, Woodson started 45 games, and he had a school-record-tying 11 interceptions and a school-record three interceptions for touchdowns, (both Purdue career records since broken). He had 320 unassisted career tackles and 445 total career tackles at Purdue, which ranked second and fourth, respectively, on the Boilermaker charts going into the 2016 season. He also had 29 career pass breakups, which ranked ninth, while adding 71 kickoff returns for 1,535 yards and one touchdown. He was the Purdue team captain and team MVP his senior season.
“Without a doubt, Rod is the most extraordinary athlete that I was associated with during my playing days at Purdue and in the NFL,” said wide receiver Calvin Williams, a Purdue teammate and former NFL Player. “His selection to the College Football Hall of Fame is well deserved for a player of his stature.”
Woodson was inducted into the Purdue Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Big Ten’s annual Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year Award carries his name. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Since his retirement from the NFL, Woodson has worked as an analyst for the NFL and Big Ten Networks and also on Westwood One Radio. In between media jobs, he was the Oakland Raiders’ cornerbacks coach in 2011 and returned to the Raiders as an assistant in 2015. He and his wife, Nickie, have five children.