Two of the best college prospects in football, Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning, entered the National Football League in 1998, and 18 years later, they both hung up their cleats after putting the final touches on a pair of Hall of Fame careers.
Nearly 20 years ago, Woodson was a dynamic defensive back fresh off a Heisman Trophy win and Manning was considered the best quarterback in the class when the duo was selected within three picks of each other during the 1998 NFL Draft; Manning by the Indianapolis Colts and Woodson by the Oakland Raiders.
Fast forward almost two decades, and Woodson and Manning now collectively have three Super Bowl rings between them, 21 Pro Bowl selections, 11 First-Team All-Pro nods, and were arguably the best players at their positions for much of their careers.
The sheer longevity of their careers is impressive, but even more so when you realize that out of all the players drafted in 1998, now only one player is left in the league – quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
For 18 seasons, Woodson and Manning enjoyed the highs and lows of the NFL and established themselves as two of the premier players in the league, where the average career lasts just over three seasons.
Woodson announced his retirement Dec. 21, and Manning followed suit Monday, officially ending his NFL career after the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.
"Peyton had a healthy respect for repetition and doing things over and over again until he got them right, and that's what the great ones do," Woodson said on ESPN SportsCenter Monday morning. "It's been well-noted that he watched more film than anybody else, so that when he got to Sunday, he'd already seen everything that you've done a week before, two weeks before, a month before. He knew his opponent almost better than his opponent knew themselves."
Over their 18 seasons in the NFL, Woodson and Manning squared off a total of nine times, and while the Raiders' defensive back made a career out of picking off the best quarterbacks in the league, it took him almost his entire career to intercept a pass from the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
However, Woodson made up for lost time this past October, intercepting Manning not once, but twice in their Week 5 matchup at O.co Coliseum.
"When you play this game and you play against great players such as Peyton Manning, of course you want to get the win, but as a defensive back, you want to get the ball in your hands," Woodson explained. "You want to intercept those guys, the great ones, and he's certainly one of the great ones. It was great to finally get an interception of one of the greatest players in the game."
Eighteen years after their journeys in the NFL began, one chapter officially ended Monday with Manning announcing his retirement, but the pair will certainly meet again, likely five years from now when they are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.