Fittingly, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame together.
Woodson and Harris will form the Hall of Fame’s 50th class, Packers Hall of Fame Inc. announced on Thursday. On April 18, they will become the 163rd and 164th players inducted.
“I think that was the only way it could be done,” Woodson said in a conference call. “If I was going in with anybody, it had to be Al. We spent countless days and practices and hours together, pushing each other to be the best players we could be out there on the field. Each of us took great pride in what we did, each of us took great pride in going out there and trying to shut the other team down, shut whatever receiver down that was in front of you. I know the Hall of Fame was figuring out who was going in and, once they called me and told me it was Al, I was like, ‘That’s the way it’s supposed to be.’”
Woodson was the fourth pick of the 1998 draft by the Oakland Raiders after winning the Heisman Trophy at Michigan. He spent eight seasons in Oakland before signing a free-agent contract with the Packers in 2006. A player known at the time as much for his negative attitude as his talent, Woodson turned in seven dominant season for the Packers to cement his status as a future Pro Football Hall of Famer.
“The decision was really made for me, to be honest,” Woodson said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of suitors out there for me as a free agent. The Green Bay Packers came with a package, and to quote the movie, they showed me the money. They really wanted me there and showed that they wanted me there. So, that was the initial decision-making process I went through with me going to Green Bay. Then once I got there, it was kind of rough at the beginning, because I really didn’t quite want to be there, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I didn’t have anybody who wanted me on their team, and I was really sour about that, so it kind of dictated the way I interacted with a lot of people around there, really standoffish, got into some verbal arguments and things like that. When I look back on it, I kind of feel like it was my way of trying to get out of the situation. But I’m really glad I didn’t get out of it because it turned out the way it turned out. I finally got comfortable being there, and once I started playing and started making plays, everything kind of took care of itself from there.”
He intercepted 38 passes and broke up 115 with the Packers and was the heartbeat of the 2010 team that won the Super Bowl. He was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008 through 2011 – including NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009 – and led the league in interceptions in 2009 and 2011. He set franchise records for the most touchdowns on interceptions (nine) and the most defensive touchdowns (10).
Harris, a sixth-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1997, spent five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before being acquired in a trade by the Packers in 2003.
“The year prior to being traded, I went to Andy Reid probably once a day for about two weeks after every practice asking to be traded,” Harris said. “He really didn’t understand why I wanted to be traded. I just told him, ‘Coach, when you were an assistant coach, you were aspiring to be a head coach. Well, I’m a third corner and I can’t make the Pro Bowl as a third corner.’ He told me one day after practice, ‘Al, at the end of the year, I’m going to do what’s best for the team and I’m going to do what’s best for you.’ The night before the trade, he called me and told me the teams and he said, ‘Any preference that you have?’ I was like, ‘No, not really.’ I asked his advice and he said, ‘I’ve been in Green Bay, I know Mike Sherman and, if it was me and I was advising my son, I would go to Green Bay.’ Once I got there, I tipped my hat to Mike Sherman for pulling the trigger on that trade. I think he gave up a second-round pick. I’m just thankful, man.”
The Packers were thankful, too. Harris played eight seasons for Green Bay, tallying 14 interceptions and 108 passes defensed. He earned back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in 2007 and 2008 after receiving alternate recognition the previous three seasons.
A physical corner who thrived in press coverage, Harris recorded one of the most memorable moments in franchise history when he intercepted Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown in 2003 playoff game at Lambeau Field.
“I was just happy I caught the ball. There’s guys who played with me who would tell you my ball skills weren’t that good,” Harris said.
Harris and Woodson drove each other to new heights. Harris remembered “scaring the young wideouts before practices, telling them which guy I want to get cut. ‘Hey, I’m going to get you cut today. I’m going to get you cut tomorrow.’” On Sundays, they formed one of the NFL’s premier tandems from 2006 through 2009.
“It was special, man,” Woodson said. “I remember Speedy (then-defensive backs coach Lionel Washington) told me when I first got to Green Bay, he said, ‘Man, I’m going to tell you what, one thing about Al, he’s not going to let you outwork him.’ And I noticed that right off the bat going out to practice that I was with another guy out there on the corner that was going to work as hard as I was going to work.
“I remember times when we would go out to practice and we would talk to each other about what kind of day it was going to be. We would decide whether or not it was going to be a work day or whether or not we were going to work on some of the other little things. What the work day meant, we were going to take all the reps. In every period, we were taking all the reps. Of course, there were times when we got a little winded and take a play off but, for the most part, every rep and every period, we’d take all the reps. I remember the young guys would be like, ‘C’mon, man, we got to get reps, too.’ Me and Al would look at them and be like, ‘I don’t know what to tell you but you can’t do that today.’ I think that’s what made our group – not just me and him – but our group in general so special we pushed each other, and it was really about the hard work that we put into it, and that’s what made it fun.”