Moments after the Green Bay Packers clinched the NFC Championship Game last Sunday, it was time for someone to step forward and provide some postgame words in the locker room. The identity of that person was revealing.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the face of the franchise, a captain and a top leader. But it's clear that cornerback Charles Woodson has emerged as the Packers' soul. Woodson spoke for about a minute, delivering a thoughtful, well-planned and rousing talk that exceeded most anything you'll hear in the incoherence of most postgame NFL locker rooms.
Perhaps you've seen video of it circulating around the Internet. If not, here's what Woodson said:
"Think about one thing. One. For two weeks, two weeks, think about one. One mind. Let's be one heartbeat. One purpose. One goal. One more game. One. Let's get it! And check this. President [Barack Obama] don't want to come watch us play in the Super Bowl? Guess what? Guess what? We'll go see him. White House on three. One, two, three. White House!"
By that point, most Packers players were aware that Obama, a noted Bears fan, said he would attend Super Bowl XLV if the Bears were playing it. Woodson turned that perceived slight into part of an inspirational message that sent players and coaches into hysterics.
"He took the words kind of out of my mouth," Rodgers said.
The Packers rotated captains during the regular season but recently voted Woodson, Rodgers, linebacker A.J. Hawk, receiver Greg Jennings, place-kicker Mason Crosby and special-teams cover man Jarrett Bush as captains for the postseason. That group pushed Woodson to the front as their lead speaker. His history as an elite player has always engendered unspoken respect among teammates, but now more than ever, he is capitalizing on it for leadership purposes.
"I think he's starting to realize he has a lot of respect in the locker room," Rodgers said. "And guys listen to him. They appreciate what he has to say. And he's pretty good at it, too."
Said Woodson: "I feel like I've played this game a long time, played it at a high level. I feel like the things I can say to the team are things that mean something to them, and I can give them something that maybe I've been through and just shed a little light on this process. So it just kind of happened that way. But it's a road that I feel comfortable with."
Those of you who read Jeffri Chadiha's profile of Woodson last year know he was once a cocky young player who "literally would walk into a meeting room, put his playbook on the floor and go right to sleep," according to former teammate Bucky Brooks. Now, Woodson not only leads Packers defensive backs through their film study, but he also spends time preparing his postgame speeches.
"You have to give it some thought, absolutely," he said. "You don't want to just go up there and rant. You want to give it some thought because you're talking to your peers, and at the same time you're talking at a time where the games are bigger than ever.
"So you put some thought into it, and you want to be able to tell them something, something that they could feel. You don't want to just talk and cliché guys to death. You want to give them something they can feel. So that's what I try to do."
One more to go.