A few months ago Rod Woodson stood proudly on the stage at AT&T Stadium, representing the Steelers as he announced the team’s second round pick at the NFL Draft.
And for him, it brought back that warm family feeling he had during his time in black and gold.
Woodson, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 1987, played 10 seasons for the Steelers, before finishing out his 17 year career with the 49ers, Ravens and Raiders. But the Steelers, the team that took a chance on him when he was a young player out of Purdue, will always hold a special place in his heart.
“I think what I loved about the Steelers was how honest they were,” said Woodson. “My career was kind of broken up in two halves. When I look at getting there, Chuck Noll was still there. Mike Webster was still there. Donnie Shell was still there. John Stallworth was still there. Joe Greene was our defensive line coach. Tony Dungy was the defensive back coach and coordinator. It was the young part of my career.
“Then the latter part of my career there, when Chuck retired, Bill Cowher, who no one really knew came in. Then Bill brought in Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau, and that was another five wonderful years where I learned so much more about football and life in general, from Bill, from Dom, but definitely from Dick LeBeau.
“The one thing that didn’t change and never changed while I was there was the ownership. The Rooney family, it was all about family. How they treated you, how they took care of you and your family, your immediate family and sometimes your long-lost kin that would show up. I had that mainstay, and that mainstay was the Rooney family and they made it easy to enjoy playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and being in the community and being in that environment.”
Woodson had some great memories during his playing time with the Steelers, one filled with plenty of highlights. But the on-field highlights aren’t what he remembers most. What he remembers are the people, the relationships, ones that continue until this day.
“I really cherish, more than anything, is all the people I played with in Pittsburgh that I am still friends with today,” said Woodson. “I still talk to Carnell (Lake), Darren (Perry), Greg (Lloyd), and Merril (Hoge). All those friendships I’ve built up over the years, Larry Griffin, Richard Shelton, Hardy Nickerson, all those guys that I built up over the years I still talk to and keep in touch with. I think that is what I cherish the most out of my 10 years there is that the friendships I’ve built became long lasting friendships.”
The other thing he cherished were Steelers fans. And black and gold, it will always be in his heart.
“I spent 10 years there and people still see me as player for the Steelers,” said Woodson. “I still see myself as a Steeler, wearing the black and gold. I wore black and gold when I was in high school. My college was black and gold, then I spent 10 years in black and gold with the Steelers. It is a part of who I am. It’s the same colors I’ve been wearing since I was 14 years old until I left Pittsburgh.
“Normally the people that do come up to me are Steelers fans. They are everywhere. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you’ll find a Steelers fan somewhere. When I moved out here to California, there was a Steelers flag flying right around the corner from my house. You realize that if you wear black and gold, because I think that’s the only city that their NFL, baseball, and hockey team all have the same colors, so if you wear black and gold, you’re part of the family. You’re part of the community.”