Rich Eisen has covered professional sports for a living for over 20 years. He has covered introductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, numerous Super Bowls, and he has come across hundreds of athletes in his day, but for the current NFL Network host, few hold a candle to Raiders safety Charles Woodson.
"I love the guy," Eisen said Thursday evening before Woodson's final game at O.co Coliseum. "I love everything about him. I love what he's become. I'm honored that I'm here for his last game. I really am."
And Woodson surely went out in style in his last home game, with the Raiders notching a thrilling 23-20 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers, and then addressing the assembled crowd at midfield after the game in a poignant, heart-felt speech.
Eisen and the rest of the NFL Network crew were at O.co Coliseum to cover the final Thursday Night Football telecast of the year, and it was a bit of serendipity for the former-Michigan Wolverine that it also coincided as a fitting end to part of Woodson's career as a Raider.
"I was, of course, thrilled for him if this is what he wants to do, but then obviously, saddened that this is it," explained Eisen. "I've taken for granted that Charles Woodson has been playing football at such a high level, for me to enjoy, since my gosh, it's been 20 years now, since the University of Michigan. I've just been thrilled and delighted by him for two decades, and it's going to be sad to see him no longer play, and he's been playing at such a high level."
As a recent graduate of the University of Michigan when Woodson was roaming the sidelines in Ann Arbor, Eisen has had a close eye on the future Hall of Famer since he won the Heisman Trophy in 1997, and he believes that Woodson remains the best player ever to come out of the storied Michigan program.
"What he did for Michigan's Rose Bowl-season and championship season was incredible, and the fact that Tom Brady has gone on to such greatness in the NFL, and Charles is, in my mind, still the greatest player in the history of the University of Michigan," said Eisen. "That's no slight against Tom Brady, but what Charles did at Michigan and how he lifted the program, personally, is something that I'm still waiting for somebody to maybe do again for Michigan."
It's been said time and time again, especially as of late, but it's true – Charles Woodson has accomplished nearly everything imaginable in his storied career playing football, and one word came to mind for Eisen when asked about his legacy.
"His lasting legacy is greatness," Eisen said. "Everything he did, he did greatly; he did terrifically. He was awesome."
In less than a week, Woodson's spectacular NFL career will come to an end at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, and for the first time in two decades, what's next for the nine-time Pro Bowler is uncertain, however, Eisen is confident that whatever it is Woodson decides to do, he'll do greatly, just as he has his entire career.
"If he wants to be part of the paparazzi, if he wants to do what we're doing right now, I think every network would be falling all over themselves to have somebody like Charles, with his knowledge," said Eisen. "His been-there-done-that-resume, with his personality, with everything. He's readymade."
Added Eisen with a chuckle, "Again, I've tried the 24 Wines, really good, so if he wants to be a vintner and just retire to Napa and pick the grapes, and sit there and stare at the beautiful mountains up there in Napa, he could do that too, but whatever he puts his mind too, I'm sure he's going to win at it, because that's what he does."