Darren Woodson: A Tribute To the Sheriff

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Darren Woodson is getting inducted in to the Dallas Cowboys Ring Of Honor Sunday and I opted to rerun an article written by our former staff writer, Chris Gonzalez: it was published in May of 2013.

darren woodson

Back in 2013, we ran a series of tributes to former Cowboys players and also The Top 10 Candidates for the Dallas Cowboys Ring Of Honor Series. Authors from other Cowboys web sites such as Nick Eatman from dallascowboys.com, KD Drummond from Blogging The Boys, representatives from The Landry Hat, Rant Sports and our own staff all did pieces on different players. Darren Woodson was among the 10 finalists for The  Ring Of Honor Series, and it’s about time one of the candidates we selected made it.

1990’s Dallas Cowboys fans remember him, 60-80’s fans respect him, unfortunately not many 2000’s kids know him. So, allow me to reintroduce to you The Sheriff of the Dallas Cowboys secondary: Mr. Darren Woodson. He was arguably the best safety the Dallas Cowboys ever had, and he is my all-time favorite Cowboys player. Darren Woodson often takes a backseat to the other Dallas Cowboys from the dynasty of the 1990’s like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Dieon Sanders, Charles Haley, and the members of the ‘most dominant offensive line of the 90’s. Even Leon Lett get’s talked about due to his follies, but Darren Woodson, who was a big reason the Dallas Cowboys defense was so dominant, rarely gets mentioned.

July 27, 2006 -- ESPN's NFL analyst Darren WoodsonLet’s take a closer look at Darren Woodson’s career:

“Part of the reason I came to the Cowboys was to play with Woody. He was a big hitter and seemed like the leader of the defense.” ” He showed up every day in the offseason to try and improve his game. He didn’t take anything for granted.” — DT La’Roi Glover.

Born April 25th, 1969 in Phoenix, Az and raised by a single mother, Darren Woodson played running back and linebacker for gang-ridden Maryvale High School. After earning All-Metro Division and All-City Honors as a senior along with scoring 6 touchdowns in a single game, ESPNRISE.com named Darren Woodson as one of the best high school players to ever come out of Arizona. Unfortunately for Woodson, he was ineligible for a scholarship due to academic reasons, so he was a walk on at Arizona State University where he played outside linebacker, yes you read that right, linebacker, not safety. His linebacker coach also happened to be Lovie Smith, yes that Lovie Smith.darren az

His sophomore year at Arizona, not only did Woodson get voted most Improved, he also had a 16 tackle game against Stanford. As a senior, Woodson even lined up as a defensive end. He earned honorable All-Pac 10 mention his sophomore year, Honorable All American as a Junior, and All-Pac 10 as a Senior (he was also named team captain as a senior) He went from playing inside and outside linebacker to defensive end to then becoming one of the best safeties in NFL history without any previous experience at the position? AMAZING. Dallas Cowboys Darren Woodson was truly a smart, talented, gifted athlete.

“He was committed to being the best player he could be. The reason we were able to do the things we did is because of guys like Darren Woodson.” – Hall f Fame QB Troy Aikman.

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Woodson with the 37th pick (2nd round) in the 1992 NFL draft. He spent his rookie year on special teams before replacing James Washington in 1993; he then worked his way to up to becoming one of the most feared safeties in the game. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo (yes that Dave Campo) deserves some credit for spotting Darren Woodson and believing he could play Safety in the NFL. Who knows where Woodson would’ve landed had Dave Campo not persuaded the Dallas Cowboys to invest a 2nd round pick in him. Darren Woodson quickly established himself with the Cowboys, setting a franchise record for tackles by a defensive back in just his first year as a starting safety. He continued to make Dallas Cowboys history for the rest of his career.

“For me to be playing across from Jerry Rice in the slot as a safety tells you he had faith in my abilities.” — Woodson on Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo

woodsonDarren Woodson was always the Sheriff of the secondary and never had his” Buzz Light-year companion”. For a few seasons it looked like Roy Williams would be Woodson’s “Buzz”, but that fizzled out. Roy Williams did enjoy his best seasons with the help and mentoring of Darren Woodson and they were a feared tandem, but after Darren’s retirement, Roy’s play fell off dramatically. Woodson was the silent leader who lead by his actions on the field: he was a ferocious hitter and he had the athleticism to cover anyone. He was actually the Cowboys nickel corner for most of his career; using a starting safety as your nickel or slot corner is unheard of in today’s game.

Darren Woodson’s record for career tackles by a Dallas Cowboy will always be overshadowed by Emmitt Smith becoming the all time leading rusher in NFL history. Woodson is so forgotten and unappreciated  that there are only 2 videos of Darren Woodson on youtube; both clips show him laying the hammer down.

“Darren was a player who could hit, tackle and take charge in the secondary. He did all those things with authority. He made his presence known on the football field, but played within the scheme and played smart. … You win with guys like that.”  Dallas Cowboys Coach Jimmy JohnsonWOODY

It was truly a sad day for the Dallas Cowboys Nation when Darren Woodson, due to the herniated disc in his back, announced his retirement at the end of the 2004 season. He was the heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys defense. It has been a revolving door at the safety position ever since. Unfortunately his shoes were too big for anyone else to fill . He has always been a stand up guy, giving back to the community and bleeding blue and silver. Darren Woodson gave us some of the best years while playing under the radar and often going unnoticed. It is about time Jerry Jones adds him to the Ring of Honor and the NFL recognizes him as one of the best and inducts him into the HoF. He will always be a true Cowboy and a perfect role model for current and future Cowboys players to look up to.

“I laid it on the line every time I put the helmet on.” — Darren Woodson.

Editors Note: Chris, you can now rest easy because your hero is finally getting inducted in to the Ring Of Honor. Passionate posts like this one only add to how much your contributions to YDCFF are not only appreciated, but missed.

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  • gcarr1213

    There was a time where no receiver would dare to run across the middle of the field or run a seam route on Dallas. With Woodson and Williams, patrolling, it would been a vicious hit. S don’t play like Woodson anymore due to the stupid new rules. Atheltically he was the most gifted S to have every played. He was a S with the body and tackling ability of a LB, and the speed and coverage ability of a CB.

  • gcarr1213

    There was a time where no receiver would dare to run across the middle of the field or run a seam route on Dallas. With Woodson and Williams, patrolling, it would been a vicious hit. S don’t play like Woodson anymore due to the stupid new rules. Atheltically he was the most gifted S to have every played. He was a S with the body and tackling ability of a LB, and the speed and coverage ability of a CB.

  • gcarr1213 They should have kept Sendejo  He is the heart and sould of the Vikes defense. The only game they lost since week one, was the one he missed. It was caused by his his own teammate running in to him and hurting his knee. He not only delivers those bone crushing hits, he still has never allowed a TD while in coverage. Unlike Church, he always takkes good angles, makes good reads and never misses a tackle. Another Jerry blunder and another player everyone doubted me about. I got a lot of crap from Cowboys fand when Dallas cut him. Now I get to get to gloat because he not only unseated a first round pick as an undrafted player, but is among the best safeties in the NFL. I love saying I told you so lol.

  • Great Read! Woody was a class act and I miss him a lot. He should have gone in to the ring long before  Haley who was a hired gun. Woody was a true Cowboy. I am still waiting for them to find an adequate replacement. Hopefully Jones can become that guy.

  • CowgirlCas22 gcarr1213 I liked Sendejo too. The tape never lies. He was a great find by you and one of the many examples of why I rarely doubt your scouting skills.

  • gcarr1213 You put it all in a nut shell. Woody was a rare talent.