While Charles Woodson has always been a stoic force on the field, the moment he found out he was going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, his emotions came flooding out.
"It's funny because you kind of talk to yourself before those moments come and you say, 'Hey, I'm going to keep it together. I'm not going to cry.' When the moment's real, it's real. … When [Pro Football Hall of Fame President] David Baker comes up, you know what that all means," Woodson said. "It kind of hits you. ... And then when I turned around and I saw my two boys, my wife and my mom standing there, in your mind you immediately start running back all of the time spent at your craft and being able to get to that moment and what it takes to get there."
On his path to the gold jacket over 18 seasons, Woodson won the 1998 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was selected to four Pro Bowls and received two first-team All-Pro selections.
His name is in the NFL history books among the top five in career interceptions (65), pick-sixes (11) and passes defended (183). He also holds the Raiders franchise career records in forced fumbles (18) and passes defended (84).
"The one thing I always say — as far as any team that I've played for — I think that the teams respected me as a player because I left it all on the field," he said. "I went out there and played my heart out each and every Sunday or whatever day of the week we were playing on. That's where the respect and the love comes from because I tried to give them whatever I had."
That mentality of giving his all is what he believes he'll be remembered most for.
It was developed through what he learned during his first few years in the Silver and Black. Woodson said hanging out with the veteran players is what taught him the expectations of being a Raider: toughness, physicality and speed.
"I tell people all the time that my first memories of going out there to the facility and walking around was hanging around Willie Brown," Woodson recalled. "Willie Brown was a guy who made sure that you understood what it meant to be a Raider. I remember the first thing that he would always tell us is that there are 31 other teams in the NFL and then there's the Raiders."
Woodson shared that wisdom in his second stint with the Raiders from 2013-15 — an experience he said was unlike any other as fans and the team welcomed him back with open arms.
"Second time around, now I was able to really show what it was to be a Raider to the guys who were there at that point in time. I cherish those moments, man, those last couple of years playing in Oakland, representing the Silver and Black and showing those guys what it meant to be an Oakland Raider, what it meant to go out there each and every day no matter the circumstance, no matter whether we were up or down, whether we started off 0-9, which we did one year. It didn't matter. You've got to go out there and get it done and show your teammates, your coaches and your fans that you care about what's going on."
The defensive back's career has run parallel to another league icon who will also be on the stage in Canton: quarterback Peyton Manning.
The two were the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks of the 1998 NFL Draft and have met on the field multiple times across their storied careers. Now they meet again not as rivals, but as the best at their craft.
"Here we are, 18 years – both of us in the NFL, Heisman Trophy candidates together, we played each other multiple times. Our names will always be synonymous in history," Woodson said. "So, it's a great honor to go into the Hall of Fame with one of the best to ever do it. A guy who really was a trendsetter when it comes to football players and kind of changing the game."
As his induction into the hall of the greats gets closer, Woodson is savoring every moment of the experience.
"I get to celebrate that for eternity and what an unbelievable experience it's going to be that night. And then for a lifetime to say, 'I'm a Hall of Famer.'
"A game that you used to sit down and watch as a kid and it seemed so out of reach. All the sudden you get there, you play your time and then they tell you, 'You know what, you're good enough to be amongst the greats.' It don't get no better than that."
Take a look back at photos of defensive back Charles Woodson's legendary career with the Silver and Black.