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Sam Webb: You made it back to Ann Arbor recently to get back with the ’97 crew. What that was it like to see all those old faces again?
Charles Woodson: "It was a lot of fun. A lot of guys you have not seen in quite some years. So just to see everybody, you know reminisce, watch the old films and just to see that it seems like for the most part everyone is doing well… I think that is the most important part."
Sam Webb: Take us back to that season a little bit. Heading into it, I think you guys were like what 14th, 15th maybe, not getting a whole lot of respect. Before that season started did you think that you were guys were capable of what you ended up accomplishing?
Charles Woodson: “I mean going into any season you feel like you can do it, but I do not think that I felt any better that season than I did my first two years. I felt like my first two years with the guys that we had, that we would have won it one of those years. ’97, it just seemed like there was something about that team and we all just felt like we could get it done. We played as a team. We played unselfishly. We had fun. That is the most important part of playing the game is having fun and we had fun.”
Sam Webb: You were the face of that team, but you talked about it was a team and there were other guys that contributed. Eric Mayes was named a captain of that squad and was unable to play the entire year, but was a spiritual leader. He did a lot of things behind the scenes. Now the guy has a Doctorate. Can you talk about what he was like when he was here and how he was doing now?
Charles Woodson: “Man, you know Eric Mayes. The same way he is now is the same way he was back then. He is a guy that has a lot on his mind and he is going to let you know about it. But, he was exactly that. He was an emotional leader. He was a guy that worked hard. It was unfortunate that he hurt his knee that season, but you would have never known because he was always there. He was always on the field. He was always cheering us on. I am proud of him man. You know, to have that "doctor" preface your name, it is beautiful. I am happy for him man. He is definitely one of the good guys.”
Sam Webb: So ’97, obviously winning the title is the biggest memory, but could you narrow it down a little further. Was there a play or two or a game or two that stick out for you in your mind where you say, ‘wow, I am going to remember that forever?’
Charles Woodson: “Most people would probably say that it was one of the plays that I made… you know, Ohio State, Michigan State. I think when I remember that season, I think about the Iowa game. You know, being down 14-0, I think it was and us coming back that game. If we had a lost that game, it was over. You know what I mean? All our hopes of winning the National Championship were done. We came back and won that. Once we won that; I think that was the point were we felt like we were going to do (win the national championship), and it happened.”
Sam Webb: You are great athlete and you have been able to accomplish so much your entire athletic career. Was there ever a point in your Michigan career that maybe you had any doubts about if you were you going to be as big time as you turned out to be?”
Charles Woodson: “Naw, I knew I could do it. I think the scariest moment for me was against Texas A&M Alamo Bowl. I get hurt, maybe like the first 5 minutes of the game and I hurt my knee. And, I just remember laying on the field and the pain being so sharp and not knowing what was going to happen. I am thinking to myself, ‘it is over already. ‘It turned out to just be a sprain, but I think that was the scariest moment in my college career.”
Sam Webb: Going on to your pro career... you’re ten years in now, you’re and All-Pro, and you’ve played I a Super Bowl. How much longer do you think you are going to play?
Charles Woodson: “You know, I don’t know. I just take it one year at a time now. My body has been through a lot playing the game, injury wise, broken bones, and that type of thing. So just one year at a time. I am going to attack this year and have fun playing the game, but after this season, then I will evaluate and see where I go from there.”
For the rest of this story on 1997 championship reflections, plus
features on Michigan Hockey, Mike Hart, Legal issues surrounding coaches breaking
contracts, and more, check out the next issue of GoBlueWolverine
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