NFL Great Charles Woodson Talks Father’s Day During This Remarkable Time

Gabe Zaldivar

Talk to Charles Woodson for any amount of time and you find yourself wanting to talk to him more. With a sterling NFL career in his rearview and a popular wine label in his midst, it’s easy to forget that he’s also a dad going through what we all are at the moment.

“We're just regular people trying to figure this shit out just like everybody else,” Woodson tells En Fuego on Sports Illustrated. “Every parent I talked to was trying to figure out the same thing. What do I do with my kids today?”

In an age of Instagrams constantly boasting parents going through this pandemic with ease, it’s refreshing to know that this dad, one used to dropping off the kids at school, is grappling with his own extended stay-at-home adventure with the kids.

You’ll also be happy to know that the Woodson family is keeping things chill with football around the house and two boys, Charles Jr. (11) and Chase (9), brightening up the home with laughter, games, puzzles and, of course, brotherly arguments.

“They're best friends and best enemies,” the Super Bowl champ and nine-time Pro Bowler said with a smile on our recent Zoom call.

Woodson, who created and now runs Intercept Wines, can’t help but crack a smile when he talks about his sons. 

As he says, they’re like little magnets. One minute they’re inseparable and the next at odds, forced apart by squabbles only brothers understand, such as who woke up first.

They’re discovering, like so many siblings out there, the beauty and frustration of being isolated at home.

When it comes to the pandemic, Woodson commends his sons who are rolling with the onslaught of a changing world.

“And I sat down one day and told them, ‘I'm proud of you guys.’ Because it's got to be hard to kind of just be confined to your house for the most part,” Woodson said. “Can't see your friends. You know, they might Facetime or talk to them on the phone. But I mean, that's it.”

The pandemic has allowed father and sons to communicate on the national landscape in honest terms.

Woodson recalls a recent conversation with one of his boys who wondered what would have happened if the country continued the shutdown until now. “Do you think everything would be better,” he asked.

Perhaps, Woodson mused but pointed out protestors that filed into capitol buildings in Michigan, demanding stay-at-home orders be rescinded.

This country wasn’t going to stay at home, regardless of the dangers of stepping back into restaurants and bars and arenas.

The world is a crazy place. The normalcy of home is sometimes the only refuge one can offer.

The brothers are still very much as close as they’ve ever been, despite a world turned upside down, “they can get along perfectly, that part hasn't changed,” Woodson said.

As so many parents have decided, and I am right there as well, there are no playdates or hanging with friends for a while.

The only thing a parent can do is try their best to keep their kids safe. It’s a struggle to find that line between protective and overprotective.

And it’s even a struggle for a defensive superstar like Charles Woodson, whose son Charles Jr. remains ever eager to play football.

Knowing what we now know about head trauma in the sport, it’s not an easy prospect for the former Oakland Raider and Green Bay Packer to have his first-born follow in his footsteps.

“So, growing up myself, I played flag all the way up until seventh grade,” Woodson says. “So, we didn't tackle until I was 12, 13 years old or whatever it was.”

It’s hard to keep your kid from something they are determined to do. Sometimes the best course of action is to mitigate the dangers as best you can.

“I've always told him you can't play tackle football until you get to the seventh grade,” Woodson says before cracking a smile as he recalls his son’s response.

“But he bugs me every day. One day he told me, ‘Dad, I want to live my life,’” Woodson laughed. “I'm like, dude, you're 10, 11 years old. You got no life yet.”

Being isolated has its joys to be sure, getting alone time with the family isn’t a bad thing. But 2020 hasn’t been just about COVID-19.

The Black Lives Matter movement finally hit a tipping point with the majority of Americans. Woodson was one who used his platform to address his followers on social media recently.

“The events of the last couple of days have been weighing heavy on my mind, heavy on my heart,” began in an Instagram posted on June 3, addressing the horrific death of George Floyd.

A dad’s job isn’t easy. You try desperately to educate and embolden your child for the world while trying to shield and protect them from harm. Much of what is happening in the world makes it more attractive to protect than embolden.

“You know, with George Floyd, it just, the scab was already peeling off and then it just ripped it out, man,” Woodson tells En Fuego on Sports Illustrated. “And people are showing their hurt and pain.”

The hurt and the pain is palpable. Tensions are high, passions are undeniable. The conversation is finally being had in frank terms.

It’s easier to address it with friends, even when opinions differ. But it’s a lot harder to deal with things when it comes to our children. Their pain is our pain. Their potential harm is ours to prevent.

“My nine-year-old, you know he’s very inquisitive and curious and I told him, ‘Hey, you look like you're very interested in the history of black people, so maybe I'll start to get you more literature and things about black people in our history,” Woodson recalled. “And he just he teared up and he said that I do. But it just makes me sad.”

A thoughtful and engaged young boy yearns to learn about his heritage but is fearful of the pain it might cause. Opening the box and peeking in to discover great accomplishments to be sure, but also centuries of oppression and heartache.

The subject was also brought up in a call with the Packers recently. And Woodson told them what he is determined for his sons to realize, your value comes from you. And it can never be taken away.

On this Father’s Day—a remarkable and truly astounding one to be sure—the lesson is simple but profound.

“I think most important for everyone out there (is to) make sure you tell your kids, and not just black kids, but white kids, Latino kids,” Woodson said. “Your self-worth comes from here (he pats his chest). Nobody can determine what your life means or how much your valued. You are your value.”

It comes back to what Woodson said in his June 3 Instagram video, “all lives matter when black lives matter and no lives are more important than black lives.”