A healthy Danny Woodhead returned to form in 2015 and reminded Chargers fans that he’s one of the NFL’s most dynamic players.
Woodhead played in only three games in 2014 due to a broken left ankle suffered during a game in Buffalo, but he returned to the field in 2015 and played in all 16 games. Not only did he play, but he led the Chargers in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches as he became the first running back in franchise history to lead the team in all three categories. His 80 catches tied for most in the NFL among running backs with Detroit’s Theo Riddick, while his receiving yards (755) and touchdown catches (six) were both tops in the League at his position. Also, his receptions and receiving yards were both career highs while his receiving touchdowns tied his career high. Woodhead tallied 336 rushing yards on the season to finish the year with a career-high and team-leading 1,091 yards from scrimmage. Lastly his nine total touchdowns also led the team and were a career high.
Woodhead’s top performance of the season came on Dec. 20 against Miami when he scored a career-high four touchdowns, the first four-touchdown game by a Chargers player since 2007.
Woodhead joined the Chargers in 2013 and made an immediate impact, setting career highs for catches, receiving yards, touchdown catches, scrimmage yards and all-purpose yards. He finished the regular season with the most touchdown catches among all NFL running backs and the second-most receptions and receiving yards.
A native of North Platte, Neb. (pop. 25,000), Woodhead is one of the most popular athletes ever to come out of the Cornhusker state. He first came onto the national scene at Chadron State College after a record-setting career at North Platte High. Nebraska’s 2003 Player of the Year, Woodhead was overlooked by the state’s biggest schools, including the University of Nebraska, so he followed his older brother, Ben, to Chadron State where he became the first athlete in school history to receive a full-ride scholarship. Despite his diminutive 5-8, 200-pound frame, Woodhead set a number of records for the Eagles and he became a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Award, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Woodhead left Chadron as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (7,962 yards) and he tied the national mark with 109 touchdowns. Though Chadron State never won a national championship during Woodhead’s career, the Eagles went 35-11 during his tenure, including back-to-back undefeated seasons and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles his junior and senior years. Their only loss each of those two seasons came in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals where both times they were defeated by Northwest Missouri State. In 2013, Woodhead was named to the Division II 40th-Anniversary Tribute Team.
Despite a record-breaking college career, Woodhead did not receive an invitation to participate at the 2008 NFL Combine. Instead he took part in a pro day on the University of Nebraska campus and posted a 40-yard dash time that would’ve been among the fastest at the Combine. Still, when the 2008 NFL Draft rolled around, all seven rounds came and went without Woodhead hearing his name called and he ended up signing a free agent contract with the New York Jets. Woodhead suffered a knee injury in training camp and spent his entire rookie year on the “Reserve-Injured” list. He returned in 2009 and played sparingly for the Jets, but in 2010 he was released after the first game of the season. It didn’t take long for the rival New England Patriots to scoop up the Nebraska native and his career quickly hit an upswing. Woodhead played in 14 games for the Patriots and averaged a team-record 5.64 yards per carry for a squad that reached the AFC Divisional Playoffs. A year later, Woodhead helped the Patriots to a 13-3 regular season that culminated with a date with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. And in 2012, he helped New England to a 12-4 mark and a trip to the AFC Championship Game.
Woodhead seemed destined to play football from early on. As a child, he drew numbers on the backs of his cowboys and Indians and he held make-believe games in his bedroom. Looking for a bigger field, he once drew a football field in the middle of the family’s living room with a green marker. And by the fourth grade, he was working as a ball boy at North Platte High School, where his dad, Mark, was an assistant coach.
The Woodhead family is extremely close. Danny was home-schooled until the ninth grade and his parents still live in North Platte, where Mark is now a school teacher and high school girls basketball coach. Both of his parents attended Chadron State. Mark played wide receiver for the Eagles in the late 1970s. Danny and Ben roomed together at Chadron and they later served as the best men in each other’s weddings. All of the men in the Woodhead family go by the nickname “Woody,” except for Mark, who goes by “Big Woody.” They all enjoy playing golf and Danny, a scratch player, is the family’s best. Mom, Annette, is extremely devout and to this day she still sends Danny scriptures prior to each of his games.
Woodhead and wife, Stacia, have two daughters, Gia Grace and Missy Faith, and a son, Will Daniel.
Woodhead has always been a popular NFL player but his popularity reached new heights in 2013 when Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway was photographed walking her dog in Los Angeles, while sporting a replica of Woodhead’s No. 39 Chargers jersey.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Signed with New York Jets as undrafted rookie, May 2, 2008...waived Sept. 6, 2009...re-signed to Jets’ practice squad, Sept. 9...signed to Jets’ active roster, Oct. 17...re-signed with Jets, Jan. 25, 2010...waived Sept. 14...signed with New England, Sept. 18, 2010...contract expired March 12, 2013... signed with Chargers, March 21...signed two-year contract extension through 2016 with Chargers, July 22, 2014.
2015: Pro Football Journal first-team All-Pro as 3rd-down back...two rushing touchdowns Sept. 13 vs. Detroit...Team Captain for Lions game...scored on nine-yard run in second quarter and one-yard run late in fourth quarter for 33-21 lead...season-high 138 scrimmage yards in 30-27 win over Cleveland Oct. 4...led team in rushing yards (54 yards) and second in receiving yards (84 yards)...career-long 61-yard catch-and-run late in third quarter set up touchdown for 20-16 lead and then in fourth quarter, 19-yard run to Browns’ 24 during game-winning field goal drive...season-high 11 catches and tied career-high with two touchdown catches Oct. 25 vs. Oakland...career-high four touchdowns Dec. 20 vs. Miami, one rushing and three receiving...marked first four-touchdown game by Charger since 2007...his four touchdowns tied for second-most in game in team history...three touchdown catches tied for third-most in game in team history...against Miami, raised season touchdown total to nine for new career high, while raising touchdown catch total to six to tie career-high...108 yards from scrimmage Dec. 24 at Oakland to go over 1,000-yard mark for second time in career...team-high eight catches Jan. 3 at Denver to set new career-high for season receptions (80)...also 62 scrimmage yards vs. Broncos to raise season total to new career-high 1,091.
2014: Injured ankle early Sept. 21 at Buffalo and did not return...placed on “Reserve-Injured” list Sept. 23.
2013: USA Today All-Joe...career-best two TD catches during 30-21 win over Dallas Sept. 29...26-yarder to open game was career-long TD catch...five-yard shovel pass for touchdown Oct. 6 at Oakland...two-yard touchdown run Oct. 20 at Jacksonville for first score in 24-6 victory...led team and tied season high with nine catches Nov. 3 at Washington...appeared to score game-winning TD on six-yard catch-and-run with 29 seconds left in game as he dove and appeared to glance pylon, but call was overturned by instant replay...Chargers settled for field goal that sent game into overtime...career high fourth touchdown catch of season Nov. 10 vs. Denver...tied career high with sixth and seventh touchdowns of season in 41-38 win at Kansas City Nov. 24...during late fourth-quarter game-winning drive vs. Chiefs, had consecutive catches of 19 and 14 yards to take Bolts from own 34 to Kansas City’s 33...career-best eighth touchdown of season for 24-0 lead in 37-14 win over New York Giants Dec. 8...first-career postseason touchdown on five-yard run in Jan. 5 wild card playoff win at Cincinnati.
2012: Late third-down catch (20 yards) set up game-tying field goal in Oct. 21 overtime win vs. New York Jets...first-career multi-touchdown game with one score rushing and one receiving Nov. 11 vs. Buffalo...season-high 61 yards rushing and two touchdowns Dec. 16 vs. San Francisco.
2011: Two-point conversion runs vs. Chargers Sept. 18 and Buffalo Jan. 1...lone touchdown of season (10 yard run) in Dec. 18 win vs. Denver...four-yard touchdown catch vs. New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
2010: Began season with Jets and waived day after Sept. 13 Monday Night Football season opener vs. Baltimore...ended season with New England and named to USA Today’s All-Joe Team...fourth in NFL with average of 7.1 yards per touch from scrimmage...first-career start and first-career game as Patriot Sept. 26 vs. Buffalo...22-yard touchdown run during 38-30 win over Bills...first-career touchdown catch (11 yards) for 27-14 lead in Oct. 4 win at Miami...first-career 100-yard receiving game (104), including career-long 50-yard catch, in 45-3 win over Jets Dec. 6...season-high 125 scrimmage yards in Dec. 26 win over Bills...led Patriots in rushing while making first-career playoff start Jan. 16 vs. Jets.
2009: First-career game Oct. 18 at Buffalo...season-high 52 scrimmage yards, including season-long 24-yard catch, in Dec. 13 win at Tampa Bay.
2008: Injured knee during training camp and spent season on “Reserve-Injured” list.
COLLEGE: Associated Press Little All-America...four-time first-team Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and three-time RMAC Offensive Player of Year...Academic All-America... second in NCAA history with 9,749 all-purpose yards and 654 career points...NCAA-record 2,756 rush yards as junior in 2006...played at Chadron State from 2005-08...math eduction major.
PERSONAL: Born in North Platte, Neb....Nebraska Gatorade Player of Year at North Platte High...all-state and 2003-04 High School Male Athlete of Year by Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star...set Class A state records with 4,891 career yards and 76 touchdowns...led North Platte to one state final and two state semifinal games...averaged 26 points per game in basketball to lead state as senior.