Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard was one of those rare gems that got lost in the swollen inbox of NFL scouts.
He slipped through the cracks if you will, and entered the league undrafted out of Kentucky.
“I thought I would never get to play this game again,” Woodyard said Wednesday morning on what went through his mind when he went undrafted. “I think that set in to me. I remember when I drove out here to go to the airport. It was dark, raining. I shed a few tears. Listened to one of my songs at the time, a Beanie Sigel song, and it was just a song that really touched me.”
Woodyard was the Broncos’ leading tackler last season with 117 tackles in 15 games. He did it in a season where many thought that he would just be a temporary starter until linebacker D.J. Williams returned from his suspension.
It was the chip on Woodyard’s undrafted shoulder that told him he could theoretically replace Williams for good.
“My thing is: being undersized and being undrafted, those chips will never go away for me, man. I go out there and I play smash-mouth football. That’s the way I play the game, and like I said, I’m a true competitor of the game, and I respect the game, but once you get on that field, it’s up to you to prove that future.”
In addition to leading the team in tackles, Woodyard went on to record 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, and one forced fumble. He was a true wrecking ball all over the field, and that’s the way he operates regardless of where he is on the depth chart.
“My approach is always going to be the same: out-work everybody,” Woodyard said. “That’s people at my position, people that are not at my position. That’s just me pushing myself. That’s just the type of person I am.”
Woodyard has always been a leader in the locker room. That’s why he was voted a special teams captain during his rookie year. Now his leadership is deeply injected into the heart of a defense that finally sees the same defensive coordinator for consecutive years.
Woodyard’s tears in that dark rainy night only serve as a humbling memory. The real emotion shows up on the field for him now.