DALLAS (BVM) – Darren Woodson was a Dallas Cowboys star amongst stars.
While helping Dallas win three Super Bowls during the early 1990s, Woodson was often overshadowed by the likes of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. In fact, the day Woodson set the Cowboys’ franchise record for most tackles in 2002 was the very day Smith became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Despite the firepower on the offensive side of the ball, Woodson became a legend in his own right and is a 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist because of it.
“I worked my ass off for the opportunity to get here,” Woodson said of the long wait to become a Hall of Fame finalist. “Not only did we win championships back then but if you’re any type of competitor, individually, you don’t mind the honors; you want to be recognized for your work.
“I put those hours in. I showed up early, I stayed late, watched a ton of film, felt like I could play with anybody at any point and was one of the best safeties in the league. So this finally came about and I was just happy and more happy for my former teammates and my family that stuck with me this whole time.”
Woodson spent his entire career (1992-2004) with the Cowboys and retired in 2004 as the franchise’s all-time leading tackler. The versatile safety was a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro and helped Dallas win three Super Bowls before being inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
⭐️ 3x Super Bowl Champion
⭐️ 5x Pro Bowler
⭐️ 4x First-Team All-Pro
⭐️ 1,350 career tackles pic.twitter.com/CZMBcuzIGD
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) April 25, 2021
Earlier this month, Woodson was named as one of 15 modern-day finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s the first season he’s advanced past the semifinal round of 25 candidates after being a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame on six occasions.
“It was a great feeling,” Woodson said of being named a Hall of Fame finalist. “I know a lot of people always say it’s not a big deal, no, this is a big deal, man.”
Before becoming one of the best safeties in NFL history, Woodson was an undersized linebacker from West Phoenix, Arizona. He walked on at Arizona State because he failed to qualify academically for a scholarship but following his sophomore season, Woodson was voted as the team’s most improved player after leading it in tackles (122) and tackles for loss (5).
Woodson – whose position coach at ASU was future NFL head coach Lovie Smith – went on to become a three-year starter at outside linebacker for the Sun Devils before eventually being inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame in 2005.
Now, it appears things might come full circle for Woodson.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 will be inducted during the NFL Honors show on Feb. 9 which will take place in Woodson’s hometown of Phoenix, Ariz., just days before Super Bowl LVII.
“If it happens, it’s back in my hometown of Phoenix, my entire family will be there and they would run me off the stage because we’d have too many family members and friends,” Woodson said. “I would rejoice in the fact of just being around, specifically, my immediate family. My mom, my sisters, my brothers, they’ve been there a long time and I want them to enjoy this moment.
“I was a westside kid from Phoenix, Ariz. and at 7 years old, I was dreaming of being an NFL football player. My dream came true but it was a lot of hard work and a lot of people pushed me along the way. I didn’t do anything by myself.”