“It’s exciting to be here with a new start. I’m just happy to be here and get back to football,” Woodyard said moments after signing his contract. “It’s time for a new change and a new beginning, and we’re going to get it done.”
Joining Tennessee marks a return to this part of the country for Woodyard, a native of LaGrange, Ga., who played college football at Kentucky, and a new opportunity for a player who was voted a captain all six seasons he played for the Broncos.
“I love the game of football and I respect it, so I’m going to give my best every time I’m on the field,” Woodyard said.
Woodyard was first-team All-SEC in his final two seasons with the Wildcats but was not drafted in 2008. He signed with Denver and quickly made an impression with coaches and teammates and against opponents.
“Every year, my teammates voted me for captain, so that’s an honor to be looked at as a captain by your teammates,” Woodyard said. “It was just one of those things that I expected myself to come in there and play football the way I play football. It’s always an honor when your teammates vote you a captain, especially the older guys voting a rookie as captain.”
He said it was important to him to keep earning that status from teammates each season.
“That’s the thing about the NFL,” Woodyard said. “You’ve got to prove yourself every year, and I believe in that.”
Titans general manager Ruston Webster said Woodyard’s experience in 3-4 and 4-3 defenses will be beneficial at inside linebacker as Tennessee installs a hybrid defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
“He is smart and fast,” Webster said. “He also brings the leadership qualities and intangibles that we look for in a player, which makes him a good fit for us.”
Woodyard has started 40 of the 87 regular season games he’s played in the pros, including 24 in the past two years. He recorded career highs of 114 tackles (70 solo), 5.5 sacks, three interceptions and six passes defensed in 2012 and followed with 83 tackles (47 solo), 1.5 sacks, an interception and four passes defensed in 2013.
“They want playmakers, and that’s something I definitely look forward to, being a playmaker in the system, running it and setting the defense,” Woodyard said. “It’s important that the linebacker takes control. He’s looked at as the quarterback of the defense, and it’s very important you go out there every day and make sure your teammates are comfortable with your calls and getting them lined up.”
Woodyard helped the Broncos win the past three AFC West titles, the 2013 AFC Championship and appear in Super Bowl XLVIII. Although that game wasn’t the season finale he and his teammates envisioned, Woodyard said he has an understanding of “what it takes to get to that point.”
“As a player on a team that had that success, you know what it takes and you know what you have to do to get back there,” Woodyard said. “It didn’t end the way I wanted it to end, so I’m always going to have that taste in my mouth so I’m going to push my teammates hard every day to understand we have to do certain things to get to a higher level.”
Woodyard said he already knows Titans safety
“Being in our fraternity, it’s part of our lifestyle to make sure we give back,” Woodyard said. “I look forward to working with the community and my foundation, 16Ways, we’re going to hit the ground running here in Nashville and look forward to big things.”
In addition to the new beginning, Woodyard said he was excited to be reunited with Titans assistant secondary coach Steve Brown, who coached Woodyard (a safety his freshman year who moved to linebacker) at Kentucky.
“He was a good role model, good father figure to be around and eventually became my defensive coordinator my senior year,” Brown said. “I used to ask him what it takes to make it to the NFL, so it is good to be back around him.”