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Woodruff: 'It’s better than I dreamed'

Posted Oct 24, 2017

Dwayne Woodruff came to the Steelers in 1979, and has been in Pittsburgh ever since.

Legends Series: Dwayne Woodruff
Cornerback
1979-90

When Dwayne Woodruff was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round in the 1979 NFL Draft, he came to a team that already had won three Super Bowls in the past five years.

And for someone who dreamt of being a champion as a kid, he couldn’t have been happier that the fourth world championship came his rookie year.

Woodruff made an impact on the defense as a rookie, and quickly his dream came true as a part of the Steelers’ Super Bowl XIV team.

“Every kid in America dreams about being in the big game, whether it’s the World Series, the NBA Championship,” said Woodruff. “Football is all of that combined into one game. It’s not the best of seven, it’s one football game. Who is going to be the best team on that day? To know that going in to the game, feeling all of that pressure and loving it, it makes you can think other things outside of football because you have been at the top of the mountain, you know what the pressure is like and you still perform. It was a terrific feeling.”

Woodruff also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:

What’s your best memory from your playing career?
“There are so many great memories, but the one dealt with my rookie year, making the team. We were getting ready to play in the Super Bowl and Joe Greene came over and said, rookie you are going to see some football now. I am thinking what have I been watching all season? We have been destroying players and teams. I remember that. I also remember Larry Anderson, we got to the stadium early and walked out and there were 103,000 people there. It was a surreal moment. One I will never forget.”

Who had the biggest impact on your career?
“It would be Mel Blount. He played the corner opposite of me, his locker was next to mine. I always figured if you want to be the best you have to see what the best are doing. He was the best in the game by far. I would watch him and emulate him. He was a huge impact on my career.”

How much pride did you take in being a part of the Steelers defense?
“A lot of pride, I still do. I have been out of the game for a few years but I am still very proud to be a part of that Steelers family and tradition. We are known as hard workers, hard hitting, trying to get the job done. It means a lot to be a part of a family, work hard and leave everything on the field and still have that camaraderie off the field.”

Your rookie season, in the playoffs you make two key interceptions, one against Miami, one vs. Houston. What was it like as a young player to have that kind of impact, help get the team to the Super Bowl?
“It meant a lot. When you come to a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are winners. You want to do your part. What can you do to aid that team, to help that team win, and see you belong here because you make things happen? Having those interceptions solidified my position on this football team. Everybody was doing fabulous things, but at least you felt like you were contributing.”

Is it still special today to be a Super Bowl champion?
“To come in and have that opportunity and go out and achieve what every player wants to do, that is the number one goal. Everybody wants to go out and win the Super Bowl. To do that, you think as a kid what would it be like. You can never imagine the real thing. It’s great to be there. It’s better than I dreamed.”

What did it mean to you to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
“The Pittsburgh Steelers have a great tradition. When you go across the country, this globe, the Pittsburgh Steelers name is everywhere. To be a part of that, and live up to those expectation and tradition, it means an awful lot. It carries over into one’s life work. I am blessed I was able to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That is a lifetime achievement.”
 
During your football career, you attended law school. How did you manage that?
“I had good support. It was a time in my career where I knew what I was supposed to be doing on the football field. I knew I was prepared. The football side I knew what I was supposed to do. At the same time I knew football didn’t last forever. I had a family, I needed to make sure I was prepared and ready to handle that outside of football. Going to law school was a decision that was made. I was looking for something that was competitive like football. I started preparing for life like I did a football game. You can’t just jump into it. I prepared so when football was over I could walk into my next career in life.”

From those days, to where you are now, is it hard to believe?

“You go in with all of the confidence in the world. It was tough, the sacrifice, not seeing my family as much. I have three children and my third was born in the middle of law school. You lose time with your family. You get up in the morning, go to practice, go to sit in your classroom seat, get out by 9 p.m. and study until midnight. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. But at the end of the four years of law school all of a sudden the sunshine comes back out. Things worked out extremely well after.”

Why did you want to get into the judicial system?
“That wasn’t something I thought about. I thought I was going to be a trial lawyer forever. I was asked to be a judge and run for the court of common pleas. After I thought about the influence of our young kids, I wanted them to see there was someone that cared about them and could change their lives. I thought being a judge would allow me to do that.”

Is there a lot of satisfaction with what you have accomplished?
“I have the opportunity to work with children, families and be involved with education. All of the kids who come into my courtroom, I consider them my own kids. I always want them to feel like they have someone on their side, cheering for them. I always try to relate that to them. One year I was at Heinz Field at a banquet and one of the servers came over. I told her she looked familiar, I know you. She said you do, I am one of your kids. That is the first time it happened in public. The table I was sitting at, you could have heard a pin drop. They were like one of your kids, then I told them one of my kids in court. That is gratifying to have those moments happen. It makes everything worth it.

“That is part of the reason I am running for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, to help families and children. There are a lot of family court issues that come before the Supreme Court and I want to be a part of it. I think it’s important to have people with a passion for helping families. It’s also an opportunity for the Supreme Court to be a little more diverse than what it is today. Diversity is good for every business and we want to improve our Supreme Court in that way as well.”

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