Former 49ers defensive back Rod Woodson is one of the six members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009. The 17-year veteran who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1987-96), 49ers (1997), Baltimore Ravens (1998-2001) and Oakland Raiders (2002-03) answered questions on a number of topics including his fondest memories of the year he spent in San Francisco during a Monday conference call with members of the national media.
“It’s definitely an honor and a privilege to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I look at my life and really how long Pro Football has been going on, for over a hundred years and to be inducted one of 200-some odd guys to Pro Football’s Hall of Fame – I think it’s amazing,” the current NFL Network analyst said in his opening remarks.
As one of the top defensive backs to ever play the game, Woodson recorded 71 interceptions, 1,483 interception return yards, 2,362 punt return yards, and 17 touchdowns (12 of which were interceptions returned for scores, which is an NFL record).
Woodson also was a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team, and was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times. In 1994 Woodson one of only five active players to be named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team (the others were Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Reggie White and Ronnie Lott).
Later in Monday’s conference call, Woodson gave a compliment to current 49ers head coach Mike Singletary by saying he was honored to join the likes of Singletary and other great defensive players in the Hall of Fame.
“I look at myself as a country boy from Indiana and really it’s hard for me to perceive that I’m a Hall of Famer,” he said. “It’s hard for me to put myself in the category of the Joe Namath’s, the Ray Nitchske’s, and the Mike Singletary’s of the world. But it’s definitely an honor. It’s a privilege. The pinnacle of any professional football player’s career is to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I’m definitely honored and excited about going to Canton.”
Woodson said he was honored to play for the 49ers in ’97 after a successful stint in Pittsburgh and that there’s one clear-cut memory of his season-long stint in San Francisco.
“(I remember) How good we were,” he said. “I left Pittsburgh to go to San Francisco for one reason and that was to win the Super Bowl. We fell short, losing the NFC Championship game to Green Bay. But, playing with Steve Young and Jerry Rice (was great). And (I remember) how good we were on defense, I believe we finished as the No. 1 overall defense in the league that year.
“It was a good feeling to play with people like Ken Norton Jr., Tim McDonald and Merton Hanks. (They were) the guys you admired from afar but really never got to play with them. I got to see them at some Pro Bowls, but I got to talk to them in the locker room (in San Francisco). And I got to really get to know them as people.”
As much as Woodson enjoyed playing with players he respected prior to joining the 49ers, he was excited to join another storied franchise like the 49ers.
“Really, my fondest memory was of how good we were as a team even though we did come up short in the championship game. But, being in the Bay Area really made it fun to be there. It was fun to see the diversity of culture, which was completely different than Pittsburgh. The weather was completely different than Pittsburgh. Going from one storied franchise like the Steelers to another one like the 49ers was great. If you remember, that was Eddie D’s last year as the owner of the 49ers. So it was an honor to be around him and see how he treated his guys. You heard from afar how it was and I got to experience it for one year with Eddie D in control.”
Woodson and the rest of the 2009 HOF Class will be enshrined on Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7PM ET.
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