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Sandusky's Cook remembers Woodson's return

Mark Hazelwood • Feb 4, 2011 at 1:59 AM

It's a play that former longtime Sandusky football coach Larry Cook hasn't forgotten.

Playing at Harmon Field in the annual rivalry game with Fremont Ross in Week 3 in 1994, the Blue Streak mentor knew he couldn't let the dangerous Little Giant Charles Woodson get into the open field.

"It was a perfect high punt, just like we wanted," Cook said. "It was coffin-corner to the sideline and covered perfectly ... but we didn't lay a hand on him."

Woodson weaved his way through all 11 Sandusky defenders on a 75-yard return for the first score of the game, setting the tone in the Little Giants 46-7 rout of the Streaks.

For the game, Woodson was held under 100 yards rushing, but scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.

"He was just so quick, mobile and elusive," Cook said of Woodson, who will play in his second Super Bowl on Sunday as the leader of the Green Bay Packers' defense when it faces the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.

"I remember rewinding that return on film a few times and I couldn't believe we never even touched him," Cook added. "It's kind of remarkable to think he followed Orlando (Pace) a year later, so the Sandusky-Ross rivalry had two Heisman Trophy finalists within 30 miles of each other that both reached two Super Bowls."

Woodson was named Ohio's Mr. Football after a standout senior season at Ross in which he rushed for 2,028 yards and scored 230 points. He also was a USA Today and Parade High School All-American.

Cook was the coach at Sandusky from 1984-2000, compiling a 110-66 record while reaching the playoffs three times and going unbeaten in the regular season twice. In that span, Woodson was one of the best Cook ever saw.

"He was just -- and there are certain guys who you can just tell when you see them -- a man among boys," Cook said. "He was just that good and talented. He could do things that the average football player couldn't. Charles was blessed with a God-given ability and great speed. Just an incredible athlete."

From there, the former Little Giant continued to break the hearts of the Blue Streak faithful that were fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes, as Woodson had an outstanding career at the University of Michigan, where he led the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship.

He won the Heisman Trophy that season, edging out Tennessee's future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning for the honor.

His career at Michigan helped him climb up the draft boards as a junior, and Woodson was was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 4 pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft.

In his first season with Oakland, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and four years later played in Super Bowl XXXVII for the silver and black against Tampa Bay at the conclusion of the 2002 season.

The Raiders were blown out 48-21 in the big game, and the franchise spiraled quickly. In fact, the team just had it's first non-losing season at 8-8 this past season.

While his career looked to be winding down, Woodson left Oakland and signed with Green Bay in 2006 and has found new life at the confines of Lambeau Field.

In five seasons with the Packers, Woodson has 30 interceptions, eight of which have been returned for touchdowns. Last season, he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year after making 74 tackles and two sacks while intercepting nine passes and returning three of them for touchdowns.

"With 13 years in the league, his career should be winding down, but he plays at a higher level than a typical defensive back," Cook said. "He is definitely better now than he was in Oakland. The biggest thing is he proved out to be tough.

"A lot of them guys back there won't hit, and that's where he's gotten better. He can still cover and is an effective blitzer."

As for Sunday's game, Cook doesn't have a huge rooting interest since he coached against Woodson and Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger when he was at Findlay.

"I've always been a Green Bay fan, I just liked Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and the way that team played," Cook said. "I've coached against Charles and Ben and like them both. I think this game can go either way and should be very good, but either one of those two getting a ring will make me happy."

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