I just watched Rod Woodson's Hall of Fame acceptance speech. As expected, it was classy, insightful and reverent. He offered some profound thoughts on his life and his experiences as an NFL player. I thought I'd share five topics of note with those of you who didn't catch it.
1. His comments about growing up a mixed-race kid in rural Indiana were poignant. "Don't let them make you choose sides," he offered to other mixed-race children. "Just be the person God made you." I thought this topic was an important one and I was glad he addressed it. We forget sometimes that these fabulous athletes are human beings with real day-to-day struggles. He was so physically gifted that I doubt football was as tough for him as growing up bi-racial in the 1970s.
2. He made a strong and compelling case for Dick LeBeau to be elected to the Hall. There seems to be a growing push for this, both from current Steelers and, as with Woodson, former players as well. The topic of long-time assistants making the Hall came up recently in my area (southern New Jersey) with the passing of Eagles DC Jim Johnson. The Hall should certainly have room for them, and Coach LeBeau should be the first one in. It was good to hear Woodson take up the cause.
3. He had brilliant things to say about the Rooneys (of course) and specifically about his coaches in Pittsburgh. He made a special point to single out Rod Rust, who he said taught him to read offensive formations and to anticipate what they would do out of them. "The game got 50% easier after Coach Rust taught me that," Woodson said. He rattled off name after name -- Chuck Noll, LeBeau, Rust, Tony Dungy, Dom Capers, Bill Cowher. What stellar coaches he was fortunate enough to learn from. It made me think the following: IF WE'D ONLY HAD A DAMN QB BACK THEN!
4. He had this comment about how Steeler fans treated him after he left Pittsburgh: "You booed me when I played against you, and frankly, I'm glad you did. If you had cheered for me as an opponent I would have lost a little respect for you." I remember how sad I was when he left. I couldn't bring myself to boo him when he went to San Francisco. But when he went to Baltimore I booed like hell. I love you, Rod, but when you put on the purple it made me want to puke.
5. He left the following message for coaches, and for those of you who coach at any level, especially with younger kids, I thought it was perfect. In reference to a high school coach of his who had talked him out of quitting after his sophomore year, he said, "You didn't let me quit. You made me want to come back and keep trying, and that's what coaches should do." So many youth coaches these days just want to win that they lose sight of what it is they should be doing. Namely, nurturing kids, teaching them a work ethic and a love for the game, instilling in them a desire to compete and building them up rather than tearing them down. Of all the things Rod had to say, this was the one I thought was most important.
Anyway, for those of you who missed it, I'm sure you can catch it on YouTube pretty soon. It was a rewarding experience both as a Steeler fan and as a human being.