NEW YORK (AP) — Danny Woodhead went from undersized and undrafted to big-time playmaker in 10 NFL seasons.
The versatile running back announced his retirement from playing in a humble and heartfelt post on Instagram early Saturday.
"10 years!" Woodhead wrote. "Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It's been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it's time to say goodbye to the game I love."
The 5-foot-8, 204-pound Woodhead had 2,238 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns, along with 300 catches for 2,698 yards and 17 scores while playing for the New York Jets, New England, San Diego and Baltimore. He added an exciting element to the offenses in which he played, able to run the ball through seemingly the smallest of holes or take a short pass and turn it into a long gain.
The 33-year-old Woodhead is also a devout Christian who leaned on his faith during the ups and downs of what became a successful NFL career.
"All I had to do was follow His plans for my life," Woodhead wrote, "and His plans were crazy awesome!"
10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Without Him my career wouldn’t have been possible. He blessed me with the gifts and He paved the way. All I had to do was follow His plans for my life, and His plans were crazy awesome! Next, I want to thank my wife who has been by my side since freshman year of high school. She has been a rock through all the ups and downs. Sis, Willy, Mae Mae, and Hopie your daddy is going to be home a ton more and I can’t wait! Thanks to my Dad and Mom for always supporting me and showing me that God is first, then everything else will fall into place. Ben, Joel, and Anna thanks for preparing me for the NFL in our backyard games growing up. The dreaded in-laws Steve and Suzie for always being there for me. Chris Gittings (agent) you’re the best and thankful your my brother/uncle! Thank you Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens! Thanks to all my head coaches (Bob Zohner, Brad Smith, Bill O’Boyle, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Mike McCoy, and John Harbaugh) who believed in me! To my rbs coaches (coach skiles, coach reiners, Jimmy Raye, A Lynn, Ivan, Ollie, Ridge, and Thomas) thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to all my teammates from high school till now. Without you guys I never would’ve become who I was as a player. To all my olinemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career. To all the trainers, team docs, strength coaches, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, body gurus thanks for making sure I was on the field. To all the people who made my life easier at the facility (ops, pr, equipment staff, cafe workers, custodians) thanks and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. And how could i forget all my fans?! You’re the best and have always felt the love and support! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.
Woodhead was a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner at Chadron State in Nebraska as the top player in NCAA Division II. Despite his college success, he went undrafted in 2008 and signed with the Jets as a free agent.
Already a longshot to make the roster, Woodhead suffered a serious knee injury during a training camp practice and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. He recovered in time for camp the next summer and became a fan favorite as one of the Jets' featured players on HBO's "Hard Knocks." Woodhead made his NFL regular-season debut midway through the 2009 season.
He was released by New York early the next season because of a roster crunch, but New England quickly signed him. In three seasons with the Patriots, Woodhead established himself as a valuable part of Tom Brady's offense. His 547 yards rushing and five TD runs in 2010 are both career highs.
Woodhead signed with the Chargers in 2013 and played parts of four seasons with them while thriving in the passing game with Philip Rivers. He caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns in 2013, but missed all but three games the next season after breaking a leg during a game.
Woodhead returned the next season and had perhaps the best year of his career, with a personal-best 80 receptions for 755 yards and six TDs while also rushing for 336 yards and three more scores.
He was injured again, though, in Week 2 of the 2016 season when he tore a knee ligament against Jacksonville. Woodhead signed with Baltimore last offseason, but spent the first eight games on injured reserve while dealing with a hamstring injury. He finished with 33 catches for 200 yards and also ran for 56 yards in limited action with the Ravens.
In his farewell message, Woodhead thanked God, his wife Stacia — his high school sweetheart — and family, his agent Chris Gittings, along with all of his former coaches — singling them out by name — and former high school, college and NFL teammates.
"Without you guys, I never would've become who I was as a player," he wrote. "To all my o-linemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career."
Several former teammates congratulated Woodhead on social media, including Baltimore safety Eric Weddle, who played with him with the Chargers and Ravens, and Ravens free-agent tight end Benjamin Watson.
"Passionate, talented, loyal, honest, God fearing, humble, family first, dedicated, funny, never serious, spontaneous, hard working is @danny__woodhead," Weddle wrote on Twitter . "Sad for my bro. Many yrs 2gether, but more memories to come. Thankful for ur friendship. Love you woody!!!!!!!!!"
Passionate, talented, loyal, honest, God fearing, humble, family first, dedicated, funny, never serious, spontaneous, hard working is @danny__woodhead. Sad for my bro. Many yrs 2gether, but more memories to come. Thankful for ur friendship. Love you woody!!!!!!!!!#bestduoever pic.twitter.com/QgjCrZ3Lvw
— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) March 17, 2018
Added Watson on Twitter : "It was an honor to share the locker room with you last year. Thank you for your consistent witness, courage, and perseverance. Man we had some laughs. Well done brother. Congratulations!"
It was an honor to share the locker room with you last year. Thank you for your consistent witness, courage, and perseverance. Man we had some laughs. Well done brother. Congratulations! https://t.co/SOqD8jbYhu
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) March 17, 2018
Woodhead closed by graciously thanking the medical personnel he worked with, as well as team employees and NFL fans.
"You're the best and have always felt the love and support!" Woodhead wrote. "I'm sure I've forgotten a few, but know that I'm thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey."