Friends and defensive partners, Woodson and Harris enshrined into Packers Hall of Fame
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson said he loved being pushed on the field.
When he signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2006, Woodson said he soon realized he had met his match.
Upon coming to Green Bay, Packers defensive backs coach Lionel Washington said to Woodson: “Man, Al ain’t going to let you outwork him.”
That was Woodson’s introduction to Al Harris, who had already made a name for himself with the Packers – namely via his pick-6 to win a 2003 NFC wildcard game.
“I knew before I talked to Al I had another guy on the opposite side of me who was going to work as hard as I was going to work,” Woodson said. “We both tried to elevate each other’s game. There were practices the young guys got mad because we wouldn’t let them practice. If it was a hot day, we might take a play off, but other than that, no young guys got any reps. They didn’t like that too much.”
Woodson and Harris were both at Lambeau Field last month to be honored as the 163rd and 164th members of the Packers Hall of Fame (HOF).
During their five seasons playing in Green Bay together (2006-2010), Woodson and Harris created a tight bond that’s still strong today.
“I knew of him but didn’t know him personally – we have mutual friends Charles played with,” Harris said. “From Day 1 when he got here, it all clicked. We didn’t have to force anything, and everything was genuine. Woodson is serious, but we laughed lots, too.”
Longtime Packers athletic trainer Brian “Flea” Engel got to witness first-hand the relationship Woodson and Harris shared.
“It’s hard to mention Charles without mentioning Al,” Engel, Woodson’s presenter at the HOF banquet, said. “The interplay between them in the locker room was something we talk about to this day.”
Engel, who has been with the organization for 25 years, said Woodson and Harris are the two toughest players he’s come across during his time in the NFL.
Woodson and Harris took opposite paths to get into the league.
Woodson was a Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan and the No. 4 overall selection in the 1998 draft by the Oakland Raiders before being named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Harris was a sixth-round pick in 1997 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dropped and picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles before being traded to the Packers in 2003.
“Al had to come in the backdoor of the NFL and crawl his way up to this moment,” Jack Bechta, Harris’ presenter at the banquet, said. “The Packers’ organization was a big part of it.”
For their differences in making it to NFL stardom, the guys ended up in the same place with the same goal in mind: win a Super Bowl.
Along with going into the Packers HOF, Woodson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
“I’m humbled and honored to be here, be a Hall of Famer as a Packer and be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but that’s not what I was after,” Woodson said. “For me, to hold up the Lombardi Trophy, I was good with that.”
Woodson and Harris accomplished Super Bowl glory when the Packers won Super XLV.
Despite being hurt in the 2010 season and dropped in November of that year, Harris was given a championship ring by the team.
Harris played in Green Bay from 2003-10.
“It means the world to me,” Harris, who was named All-Pro in 2007 and ’08, said. “For it to happen with Woodson, I’m super stoked.”
Harris said he wouldn’t have made his way to Green Bay if the Buccaneers realized the talent they had on their roster before dropping him.
He then landed with the Eagles for five seasons before requesting Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid to trade him.
“It’s not a bad thing I got released by the Bucs because anybody who knows me knows the style of play and knows that Tampa was a cover-2 team,” Harris said. “Lots of those times, I might have been in the wrong area, but my guy was covered. I might have been way down the field and supposed to have been in the flat, but my guy was covered, for the record.”
Laughter filled the room.
“I got you,” Woodson quipped from the back.
Harris said he doesn’t have any specific memories of Green Bay that stick out more than others from his time with the team – it was his whole experience in the city he’ll forever cherish.
“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you any bad memories,” he said. “I enjoyed my time here, whether it was 70 degrees or below 0. The people were awesome. I tell my wife all the time, ‘I could live in Green Bay.’ She’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s so cold.’”
Woodson had a seven-year run with the Packers from 2006-12.
He was named All-Pro four of those seasons and was the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was a great seven years I spent in Green Bay,” Woodson said. “I still come back to Green Bay.”
Woodson and Harris fed off one another and learned from one another during their successful run together.
“Al’s whole thing was, ‘I got mine,’” Woodson joked. “I watched him as a corner ready to take on that challenge of trying to be the best corner in football. I was on the other side trying to be the best as well. To go in the Hall of Fame with him is the only way it could be.”