San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead made a name for himself scoring touchdowns on Sunday, but it’s the NFL veteran’s writing skills that are garnering his latest headlines.
Woodhead is the latest professional athlete to pen a piece for the The Players’ Tribune’s recurring series, “Letter to My Younger Self.” In it, the undersized football player (5’8”, 200 lbs.) informed his 18-year-old self (then 5’7”, 175 lbs.) to “persevere, prove others wrong, and always keep his faith.”
Like many other youngsters growing up in Nebraska, Woodhead dreamt of playing football for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. However, when the Huskers only offered him a walk-on position as a kick returner, Woodhead headed in another direction.
“When one door to college football closed, God pushed another one open. Remember that. It will become a theme — a mantra, almost — for your football career,” Woodhead wrote.
That other door led him to Division II Chadron State College. The decision to follow in his father’s footsteps and join his older brother Ben proved to be the right choice as Woodhead rushed for over 8,000 yards in his collegiate career and won two Harlon Hill trophies – the D-II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Despite proving to himself and others that he had what it took to compete with athletes twice his size, Woodhead warned himself, more disappointments lie ahead.
“It’s a feeling you need to get used to, Danny. You’ll feel it again when — even though you’ll graduate from Chadron State as the all-time NCAA rushing leader — you aren’t invited to work out for NFL scouts at the combine.
Say what you will about God’s plan, but He’s remarkably consistent. But so are you — both in your play on the field and in how you overcome adversity,” he wrote.
Woodhead’s NFL dreams wouldn’t be realized on Draft Day (he went undrafted), nor would they come during his first year with the New York Jets in 2008 (he tore his ACL in training camp and was eventually cut).
“It’s over, you’ll think. I’m never going to play football again. It’s not like you to be pessimistic, but it’s a pretty rational thought to have. I mean, what NFL team wants an undersized, undrafted rookie who just missed a full season after ACL surgery?” he wrote.
But one team did want him and it just so happened to be the best franchise in professional football: the New England Patriots.
Woodhead blossomed under head coach Bill Belichick’s system and clicked with quarterback Tom Brady. He even scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV but that also came with a caveat.
“It will be the greatest moment of your football life. But there won’t be a fairy-tale ending to this one, Danny. Because despite your big moment, your team will lose the game, 21–17,” he wrote.
Woodhead’s roller-coaster football career led him to his current job with the Chargers and while he can’t go back in time and inspire himself with his story, his words can help other undersized 18-year-olds with big dreams to never give up.
“I still thank God every day for the blessings I have in my life. It’s been an incredible ride, and I’m hoping I still have four or five years left to play the game that I’ve loved my entire life,” Woodhead wrote before ending the piece, “Trust in God’s plan. When one door closes, don’t get down on yourself. Because He will open another. And when He does, do what you do best and run through it.”
Read Woodhead’s entire post at The Players’ Tribune.
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