ARLINGTON, Texas – More than a decade after his retirement, there was Darren Woodson – standing at AT&T Stadium in his old Cowboys jersey.
Of course, it was just a prop. Woodson was taking part in an even for charity, not suiting up for a game. But the sight of Woodson in his old blue and white No. 28 was fitting for Sunday. After all, at halftime of the Cowboys' game against Seattle, he'll officially become the 21st member of the franchise's Ring of Honor.
That accomplishment isn't lost on Woodson, who recalled setting his sights on that target as a rookie, all the way back in 1992. At the time, his former coach, Jimmy Johnson, took the Cowboys' rookie class to Texas Stadium for a history lesson.
"We were all on the Star, and he was talking about the history of this organization and representing that star," Woodson said. "I remember looking up and seeing those names – Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan – so many great names that were associated with the Star. I dreamt one day that hopefully I can get up there, and 20-something years later, here we are."
Woodson is the just the 19th player to enter the Ring of Honor, and he takes his place as the sixth member of the Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990's – alongside Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Larry Allen and Charles Haley.
As a five-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro, a three-time Super Bowl champion – not to mention the Cowboys' all-time leading tackler – Woodson's credentials take a back seat to no one. Despite that fact, speaking to reporters on Sunday morning, he expressed his desire to share the occasion with those that helped him reach this point.
"Today, they're going to put my name up there as 'Darren Woodson,' and my kids are going to be able to see that for a long, long time – as long as this building is up," he said. "But I just want to make sure that people realize that football wasn't my identity. My identity was being a good man, being a God-fearing man at the same time, and pulling people up. I had great teammates that helped me. There's no way I get there without the great players that I played with. I want to represent those guys and spotlight those guys today."
Woodson gave a heartfelt speech to the 91,000 fans in attendance -- not to mention Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, as well as the 13 members of the Ring of Honor who came to commemorate the occasion. Ever the competitor, though, he said his main focus was on the Seahawks.
"Today, I walked in and the first thing I told my wife is, 'They better get this win today,'" he said. "That's all I could think of. I wasn't thinking so much about the Ring of Honor or where my name is going up right now."
The Cowboys scheduled a small ceremony for Woodson and many of his teammates prior to kick off. And at the halfway point of the game, he officially joined the ranks of the greatest players in franchise history. Of the five other members of those 1990's teams in the Ring of Honor, four attended Woodson's ceremony, as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Charles Haley and Larry Allen all appeared. Other Ring of Honor legends like Rayfield Wright, Randy White, Mel Renfro and Drew Pearson also attended.
In keeping with his message, however, Woodson was quick to turn the focus away from himself. He said the meaning of the afternoon isn't so much about the accolades, but the relationships he built along the way to the Ring of Honor.
"I don't feel the emotion now," he said. "But when I see James Washington and Thomas Everett here in a little bit, Tony Dixon and Roy Williams -- I told them I am not going to cry. They told me better I'd not cry and I said, 'I am not.' But I guarantee I will."