Danny Woodhead’s football career is one of the most unique ones in NFL history. Danny grew up in North Platte, Nebraska where he would go and break many Nebraska state rushing records in football. In the offseason, you could see him competing for the North Platte High School track and field, soccer, and basketball teams.
Danny took what many in retrospect would think is a very unusual path. Danny was not recruited by all the top Division One schools like most current NFL players. He enrolled in Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska after his senior year of high school. Danny was the first athlete to be put on a full athletic scholarship at Chadron State in its 96-year history. Thus, Danny became Chadron State’s starting running back as a true freshman and never looked back.
During his first two years, he tallied over 1,700 rushing yards and had 21 touchdowns his sophomore year. His junior season was when Danny took that next step as he rushed for over 2,700 yards, a single season record amongst all college divisions, all while leading Chadron to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Through his first 39 games, Danny averaged 15.5 points per game, which was the highest ever in Division II. He finished his senior season third on the all-time NCAA All-Purpose yards list. During Danny’s college career he was a four-time Harlon Hill Trophy finalist and a two-time winner. The Harlon Hill Trophy recognizes the most valuable player in all of Division II football.
Danny’s underdog story did not stop in Chadron as he was not invited to the NFL Combine and went undrafted in the 2008 NFL Draft. Once the Draft concluded, The New York Jets offered Danny a free agent deal awarding him the opportunity to finally see his NFL dreams come true. Injuries caused Danny to miss the entirety of his rookie season, leaving him with no film for the 2008 season. In that second season with the Jets, Danny appeared in 10 games with little production as he only touched the ball 23 times that season. His rollercoaster career continued the following season as the Jets cut him in week two.
Luckily, Danny was not sitting on the couch for very long, because days later the Jets’ AFC East foe The New England Patriots signed him hours before they were to face Danny’s former team. Although Danny was inactive for that game, Coach Belichick saw the potential in Danny as he suited up the following week in place of injured third-down back Kevin Faulk. That week against the Bills, Danny recorded his first career start all the while scoring his first career rushing touchdown off a 22-yard scurry into the end zone. He would go on to rush for over 500 yards and score five touchdowns and help lead New England to the playoffs where they found themselves losing to the Jets in the Divisional Round 28-21.
That offseason, Coach Belichick rewarded Danny with a two-year contract extension through the 2012 season, culminating in the realization that Danny truly belongs in this league. During the next two seasons, Danny would continue to impact the Patriots offense both in the rushing and the passing game as he helped the Patriots reach the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl respectively. He even scored a receiving touchdown in the Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants. In 2013, Danny decided to take his talents to San Diego as the Chargers signed him to a two-year 3.5-million-dollar contract that included a 1 million signing bonus. In his first season with the Chargers, Danny took that next step in production in the receiving game as he recorded 76 receptions for 605 yards and six touchdowns.
He did not have the chance to back up that incredible 2013 campaign as a broken fibula ended his 2014 season. After a long rehab, the Chargers were able to get Danny back fully healthy for the 2015 season. Woodhead returned to form recording 80 receptions for 755 yards and six touchdowns. However, an ACL injury kept him from repeating that success in 2016.
Week two against Jacksonville would be the last time we saw Danny Woodhead in a Chargers uniform. The Ravens would sign him to a 3-year contract in the 2017 offseason. Injuries derailed Danny’s time in Baltimore with only playing eight games due to hamstring woes. That offseason Danny was released by the Ravens. Few days after his release Danny retired.
Post Playing Career
Danny’s career is not defined by the production he had, but by the tremendous odds that he overcame. He went from a small DII School to scoring touchdowns in Super Bowls. After retirement, Danny began to pursue golf career and is still currently working on his game. Most recently Danny made it to the final Qualifying Round of the US Open before missing the cut. Danny is a true underdog story, fitting for an Ed Block Courage Award Recipient.