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Thank You, Charles

With the announcement of his retirement, we look back on the tremendous career of one of Raider Nation's most beloved and timeless icons: Charles Woodson.

Charles Woodson is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. He's played in 252 career games (with two to go) between the Raiders and the Green Bay Packers, intercepted 65 passes, forced 33 fumbles, recovered 18 fumbles, and scored 13 defensive touchdowns. The first primarily defensive player win the Heisman Trophy, Woodson has filled his trophy case throughout his career as a professional.

Eight Pro Bowl selections (possibly a ninth coming this week), three First Team All-Pro selections, two Super Bowl appearances and one Lombardi Trophy, numerous Player of the Week Awards and many more accolades have been bestowed upon the 18-year veteran. 

I have had the privilege of getting paid to watch Charles Woodson play football for nine of my 15 years with the Oakland Raiders. It was my photo that led NFL Total Access on NFL Network when the Raiders brought Charles back to Oakland in 2013. Hundreds of fans crowded the parking lot at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility in a scene I had never witnessed during a free agent visit.

I joked with Charles about how much technology had changed. I mentioned that the last time I had taken his photo it was with an old Sony Mavica floppy disk camera, and now I was using a camera phone.

During Woodson's first few years with the organization he was quiet and aloof and didn't say much if he didn't know you well. During the past three years, Woodson has been gregarious and gracious in both victory and defeat. He has been brutally honest when necessary. He's quick with a smile and a joke and he certainly knows his place in NFL history.  

My colleagues and I have been there in person for many memorable Charles Woodson moments and milestones. I was there the night he tied the defensive touchdown record in a win over San Diego in 2013, last season when he became the first player to record 20 sacks and 50 interceptions, in a win over Kansas City on Thursday Night Football, and this year when he finally picked off Peyton Manning. I even saw him catch a pass on offense in 2000 against San Diego. I was there when he picked off a Brad Johnson pass in Super Bowl XXXVII to set up the Raiders first score. I've seen 21 of his 27 regular season interceptions as a Raider in person.

It's amazing how well he moves for a man his age (39 if you didn't know), and this year many people have been astonished at how well he's been playing the game. He has sold out and put his body on the line in games that were already decided, and he's made game-changing and game-saving plays. His interception at Cleveland to preserve a 27-20 victory was vintage Woodson. He has forced and recovered fumbles. He recovered a fumble he forced against Kansas City when the Raiders had to have it.

When Woodson returned to the Raiders in 2013 it was obvious that the Raider Nation affected his decision to come back to the Silver and Black. It's been fun to watch the love affair between Charles and the fans. He has been an instrumental part of the team's turnaround and his leadership has been invaluable to a team trying to find its way.

He was the Rookie of the Year with the Raiders in 1998, and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 for Green Bay. Entering this season, Woodson, Manning and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck were the only three remaining players in the NFL from the 1998 NFL Draft.

In the coming hours and days many words will be spoken, written and Tweeted about Charles Woodson and his career. To conclude my 635 words or so, I'll offer three more.

Thank you, Charles.

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