Charles Woodson Gets Defensive With the Heisman
Michigan star edges out Peyton Manning in 1997
Heisman Trophy history had a Maize and Blue hue in 1997 when Michigan
defensive back Charles Woodson became the third Wolverine to win the award.
Woodson edged out Tennessee’s Peyton Manning for the coveted award and
became the first and only primarily defensive player to win the bronzed statue.
Stardom seemed to be earmarked for Woodson with his arrival in Ann Arbor.
Coming out of high school, he was the state of Ohio's Mr. Football. By the second
game of his Michigan career he had earned a starting position on his way to
becoming the Big 10 Freshman of the Year.
Assisting Woodson’s Heisman run was Michigan’s stellar season that saw the Wolverines claim a share of the national championship. With the media spotlight shining brightly on Michigan, Woodson took advantage of the big stage by making headline-generating plays.
Big Blue’s annual contest against Ohio State served as the defensive back’s
Heisman clinching performance. Woodson delighted Wolverine fans and
Heisman pundits with a TD punt return, an end zone interception and a key 37-yard
catch that helped set up Michigan’s only offensive TD of the game. Not only did
these plays help Michigan post a 20-14 win, but the victory also propelled Michigan
to the Rose Bowl.
Woodson’s Heisman votes from across the nation totaled 1,815 points, 272 more than Manning. Woodson's total of 433 first-place votes was 152 more than the Tennessee quarterback’s. When analyzing the different voting sections throughout the nation, Woodson was the winner in five of the six regions. In the South, where Manning was expected to dominate, Woodson was a strong second, with 218 points to Manning's 340.
Considering that Woodson earned his Heisman credentials from a defensive vantage point, his 1997 statistics are difficult to compare to other winners of college football’s top award. However his multi-faceted role on the team was evident in the numbers he posted.
For the season, Woodson generated 21 yards rushing and 238 receiving yards
while scoring three offensive touchdowns. The Heisman winner also posted 301
punt return yards and another score. Defensively, Woodson totaled 47 tackles,
one sack and eight interceptions.
Following Woodson’s Heisman winning junior season, the Wolverines star declared for the NFL Draft. The Oakland Raiders selected Woodson 4th overall in the 1st round of the 1998 Draft. Woodson started all 16 games his rookie year and was named the 1998 NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Woodson played for the Raiders through the 2005 season before joining the Green Bay Packers.