Charles Woodson Clinches the Heisman, November 22, 1997

Charles Woodson was a three-time All-Big Ten selection, a two-time All-American, and in 1997 earned awards as the nation's best defensive back and best overall defensive player. He also became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy.

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Most importantly, he had a knack for making big plays at key moments of the most important games. Indeed, many of 1997's memorable images are of Woodson's big plays: leaping high to make a one-handed interception against Michigan State; weaving through traffic on his way to a 78-yard punt return touchdown in the showdown with Ohio State.

Michigan led Ohio State 7-0 in the second quarter of their 1997 showdown when Woodson caught a punt at the U-M 22.

He ran to his left, and then cut sharply upfield at the 25, splitting two would-be tacklers.

He picked up several key blocks as he weaved through traffic between the 30 and 50-yard lines, and then raced down the left sideline to complete a 78-yard touchdown run before being mobbed by his appreciative teammates.


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Charles Woodson gained high school All-America honors primarily due to his offensive skills. Nevertheless, Michigan head coach Gary Moeller wanted Woodson as a cornerback. But at one point in his recruitment, Moeller – worried that Woodson would select one of the numerous schools seeking him as a runner – told the recruit that he could play running back if he wished. But Woodson knew where he belonged, and he insisted on being a college corner. His judgment proved correct.

As a junior, Woodson's two-way play was a key factor in Michigan's 1997 national championship season. He intercepted eight passes, including key thefts against Ohio State and Washington State; returned 36 punts for an 8.4-yard average, including the key touchdown against OSU; and he gained 259 yards rushing and receiving while scoring three touchdowns.

Text: Mike Rosenbaum. Photos: Jeff Schrier/MHP.

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