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Newly Retired Danny Woodhead Looks Back on Chargers Career
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One of the biggest fan favorites in Chargers history hung up his cleats last week when Danny Woodhead announced his retirement after a 10-year career that defied the odds.
“The reason for my decision was that it was time,” he said. “Everyone knows that with me my faith comes first. I really felt that God gave me a sense of peace. I prayed about it, and it felt like it was time.”
The 5-8, 200-pound running back’s career began as an undrafted free agent out of Chadron State, making the New York Jets after nobody gave him a chance. After playing 11 games from 2009-10, he then spent 2010-2012 with the New England Patriots. He then signed as a free agent with the Bolts, where he starred from 2013-16 before spending 2017 with the Baltimore Ravens.
While Woodhead made his mark at each stop, it was with the Chargers that he truly blossomed into the league’s premiere pass-catching back.
It’s crazy to think he almost never came to Southern California if not for a phone call seconds before he was about to return to New England.
“I had an offer from New England, and my wife and I said let’s give it to 12:00pm,” Woodhead said, sharing a story he has rarely told. “If God wants us to go to another team, then he’ll make it known by then. I remember I left bible study with my little brother and the pastor of the church, and I remember having a sense of peace about it that it was time to sign. I told my wife, and I called Chris, my agent, and said it’s time to go to New England. As I’m talking to him, he asked if I wanted anything else, and I said I was good and ready to sign with New England. And then he goes, ‘Wait a second. The Chargers are calling.’ Right then and there, when he got off the phone, I had a very, very strong feeling I would sign with San Diego. I felt like it was a sign, and I felt like that was what was supposed to happen. And it did within the next hour.”
It proved to be a fortuitous relationship.
Woodhead broke out in 2013, playing an integral part on the team’s magical playoff run with a then career-high 76 receptions for 605 yards and six receiving TDs. He also set a career-high with 106 rushing attempts for 429 yards and another two scores.
An ACL injury cost Woodhead almost all of 2014, but he bounced back the following year with the finest season of his career. He set career-highs with 80 catches for 755 yards and another six receiving touchdowns. Those numbers were the best for any running back in the NFL that year.
“That was four years of my life I’m grateful for,” he said. “We had two kids there, and it was like a second home to us. We had a lot of great memories there, and a lot of great times and fun games. Obviously we wish we had won more games there, but when I look back on it, playing for the Chargers is definitely one that I have so many great memories of. Obviously I’m beyond thankful for my three years in New England, but San Diego was when I got the opportunity to show what I can do and what my skillset was. I had a bunch of great coaches and great teammates. I definitely feel like I was given more of an opportunity with the Chargers, and I tried to do everything I could with it.”
Woodhead has memories that will last a lifetime from his four-year stint with the Bolts.
However, one game stands out above the rest - the 2013 regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs in which the Bolts pulled out a thrilling OT victory to clinch the final wild card spot in the playoffs.
“That Kansas City game to get us into the playoffs my first year was pretty sick. That was pretty awesome. I’m not sure if there was a (better) moment besides that, but there were a lot of great ones.”
Then there are the friendships.
Woodhead has been in a lot of locker rooms over the past decade, but none compared to the Chargers.
“For me it’s not always the games,” he said. “The stuff we did off the field just spending time with the guys together. Spending time together in training camp. That softball team we had was so much fun. Not a lot of football players experience that, and it’s something that was really cool.”
One teammate Woodhead instantly connected with was Philip Rivers as the two have a deep friendship that lasts to this day.
“Philip is obviously a great player, but he’s really just a great friend,” he said. “I think we’ll be 50 years old and texting back and forth. That’s what’s awesome about the NFL. You make friends while you play together, and they are friends that you would never ever -ever- come in contact with. When you play a sport like football, it does bring you together to the point where you are lifelong friends. Philip and I will probably live in different places the rest of our lives, but we will always be good friends.”
With his gritty style and infectious personality, Woodhead has been a fan favorite in every city he’s played.
However, his relationship with Chargers fans was truly remarkable.
“Those fans embraced me right from the get-go, and when you’re embraced right from the get-go, it’s easy to have a connection,” he said. “They were unbelievable. It really was an unbelievable experience, and I am so, so privileged to have been a Charger.”
While he’s one of the most popular players in the NFL, perhaps no one is a bigger fan of Woodhead than the one and only PFTCommenter. Woodhead remembers how he first heard about the Pardon My Take star midway through his Chargers career, thinking at first he was some type of weirdo.
“It was my first or second year, and I was asking people, ‘Who is this guy?!,"’ he recalled. “When he first got his Twitter (account) I wasn’t sure what it was. I thought it was some guy harassing me. I was like, ‘Who the heck is this?’ It was really weird.”
Since then, their relationship has blossomed into a full-blast bromance.
“I found out who he was, and I started to really embrace him. PFT is really gifted. He always makes me laugh. All the different times I’ve been around him and talked to him, he’s awesome. I’ll text him and he’ll text me. He’s a lot of fun to talk to on their show, and he’s just fun to follow. He’s a friend.”
Overall, it’s clear that Woodhead has a sense of peace as he steps away from the game he gave his heart and soul to for so long.
But now that he’s hung up his cleats for good, what comes next?
Woodhead has some ideas, but he isn’t rushing to make any decisions.
“It’s hard to say right now what I’ll do, because talking to the good buddies of mine who have retired, they have said to take my time. Don’t jump into something right away. Take a deep breath because I’ve been doing this for 10 years. And playing this game at a competitive level for the last 18 years with high school and college. Now it’s time to sit down and see what’s going on. You know what I mean? Take a deep, deep breath and see what’s next. I have ideas of what I want to do. At the end of the day, we are all given gifts. Obviously football is one of mine, but obviously you are given other gifts, too, and I just want to use mine to give God the glory. I think we all want to impact lives in some way, and obviously that’s what I want to do. I just don’t know for sure what it is. I’m excited for it, but what I’m excited for even more is to be a better husband and dad than I’ve ever been. This gives me more time to do it. It’s time to walk away and start a new chapter in my life.” Read