If Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards had an athletic idol other than his father, Stan, growing up, it was Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson, the first defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy in 1997. But after six years in the NFL, Sunday will mark the first time Edwards ever had the chance to go against his friend and fellow Wolverine when the Jets face the Packers.
"Along with my father playing at Michigan," Woodson said, "Charles is one of the reasons I went to Michigan to follow in that lineage of a great athlete and a great player."
When he was in Cleveland, Edwards said, either he or Woodson were injured every time their teams met. So, this is a momentous occasion for Edwards who first met Woodson at a football camp in 1995 and later got to know Woodson when he was in the pros and came back to visit at Michigan while Edwards was playing there.
Woodson might be in his 13th season, but as Edwards noted, "You're talking about the Defensive Player of the Year. That speaks volumes. He still makes plays. That's the big thing about Charles Woodson. I won't make judgments on speed or anything, but what I've seen on camera is he tends to be in the right spots and he makes a lot of plays in that defense. He has that knack. He reads offenses, he reads formations, he reads similarities and consistencies. He misses, but so do all great players when they take chances. But great players make more plays."
Woodson beat out Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for the Award as the top defender last season. Edwards sees a lot of similarities. "Heyday to heyday, I see a lot of patience in both of them," Edwards said, "very strong at the line of scrimmage, good speed."
Edwards admires the Green Bay defense in general and especially linebacker Clay Matthews for the way he flies around. But he says Woodson remains a key factor in the secondary, and Jets receiver Santonio Holmes agrees.
"Personally, he's still one of the best corners in the game," Holmes said of Woodson, who sometimes lines up at other positions in the defense. "At the same time, the coach has given him freedom to be a Troy Polamalu kind of guy, to play in coverage and to be anywhere he wants to be and be their go-to guy. He's been a linebacker making plays, he's blitzing off the edge, he's locking down receivers. He's definitely their head honcho."