When Rod Woodson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, it wasn't just a proud moment for him, his family and friends and all of Steelers Nation. It was also a proud moment for those in his hometown of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Woodson is a hero there and was honored as such as a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame "Hometown Hall of Famers" program, established in the fall of 2011 to honor players in their hometown. A plaque was dedicated in Woodson's honor at his alma mater, Snider High School, and he spoke to the students at an assembly.
"I sat right where you are sitting today," Woodson told the students, which included members of the football team wearing their jerseys. "Don't let anyone tell you that you're not good enough, because you are. It's up to you to put in the hard work and sacrifice that makes the difference between being good and being great, no matter what you do."
The program has already honored over 50 Hall of Famers with plaques in their hometown, and the goal is to continue honoring those already inducted and future inductees.
"What I really love about this program is it not really recognizes me, but recognizes my hometown and the hometowns of all of the players across the country," said Woodson. "I think it's a great program for the kids. They get to see and rub elbows with a Hall of Famer. Maybe the guy they are honoring doesn't go back to their hometown that often, but they get to see the plaque and that can encourage them to focus in and set a goal that is higher than what they had before and let them understand they can be a hall of famer in whatever it is they choose, but they have to work at it. I think that is special."
Woodson, who was the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1987, played 17 seasons in the NFL. He finished his career with 71 interceptions and 12 touchdowns. He was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994 and was a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 90s.
But in Ft. Wayne, he is more than a football player. He is someone who gives back to the community and has never forgotten his roots.
"I love Ft. Wayne," said Woodson, who has hosted a football camp there. "Any time I can plug 'The Fort,' I do that. I think it's a great place. I love coming home. I still have a lot of family here. I think it's good to come back to the foundation of what is right."