He finally got it as Woodson emerged as the unquestioned heart and soul of the Green Bay Packers.
"I feel like this is something I worked long and hard for," Woodson said after getting his Super Bowl ring last month. "I feel like it's my right to wear this ring. I feel like I worked very hard playing this game. I feel like every time I'm on that field, I leave it all out there on the field. That's the way I've always played this game. I feel like I deserve to win a championship. I feel like it's my rightful place in history to be a Super Bowl champion and I finally accomplished that."
At 34 and coming off a broken collarbone sustained in the Super Bowl, does Woodson have enough in the tank to turn in one more superlative season as perhaps the defense's most indispensable player?
While Woodson's interception total plunged from nine in 2009 — when he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year — to two in 2010, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt continually said Woodson was playing just as well while sticking to the framework of the defense.
With Sam Shields' shocking development allowing coordinator Dom Capers to use Woodson in the slot more than 70 percent of the time, Woodson piled up some impressive numbers. His 105 tackles blew away his previous career high of 81 set in 2009. His five forced fumbles also set a career high. He extended his franchise record with his 10th career defensive touchdown. And while his interception total fell, so did his touchdowns allowed, from seven in 2009 to three last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Packers were fortunate to have lost Woodson in the Super Bowl rather than earlier in the playoffs. It's hard to imagine their winning games without him because Capers would have had to radically change what he does.
Nickel corner in the Packers' scheme isn't for the faint of heart. The position is one part linebacker (see Woodson's tackle numbers), one part safety (covering tight ends) and one part cornerback (covering wide receivers). The Packers certainly have cover guys, especially with the addition of fourth-round pick Davon House, but neither Tramon Williams, Shields nor House have the physicality necessary to do what Capers asks of Woodson.
Without Woodson, Capers would have to play a more traditional defense, with more reliance on his base 3-4 alignment while limiting usage of nickel to passing situations.
Fortunately, Woodson will be ready to roll and Capers will have the most dangerous card in the deck at his disposal.
As for Woodson's hunger? Not to worry. He senses history. Back-to-back Super Bowl titles would stamp this team as one of the best in NFL history and give his Hall of Fame credentials a huge boost.
"This is a feeling, you can never get enough of it," Woodson said of getting his ring. "The way we prepared last year brought us a championship. Now we know what that's all about. This year, we'll prepare even more and even harder to get here again. It feels good. You can never get enough of seeing that confetti."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.