Cal Football: Craig Woodson Celebrates His Triumphant Return to the Field
Craig Woodson hadn’t played in a game for Cal since Dec. 5, 2020 — two days shy of 21 months.
The redshirt junior safety missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury during fall camp.
So when the football came his way late in the first half Saturday against UC Davis, an interception waiting to happen, who could blame him if he wasn’t altogether ready to make the play?
Well, Woodson shouldered the all the blame.
“I’ve definitely got to cash in on that one,” he said. “Next-play mentality. Got to keep going.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
On the second play of the second half, Woodson stepped in front of a pass from Aggies quarterback Miles Hastings, picked it off and raced 39 yards into the end zone. The Bears’ 10-point lead suddenly swelled to 24-7.
During the post-game interview session, the redshirt junior safety from Grand Prairie, Texas, was all smiles.
“Yeah, man, it meant really everything to me,” he said. “Even before the game I was emotional, just thinking back to where I was and where I’m at now. It was a long journey.
“I really had to persevere through the whole thing, so just being here and being able to play again, I’m just grateful.”
Woodson’s teammates shared his joy.
“Especially excited for Craig after having the season he had last year and just coming out and playing fast,” fellow safety Daniel Scott said.
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“Really proud of him,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox says in the video above. “He hasn’t played in a long time, so it’s great to have him back out there.”
Wilcox and Scott were particularly impressed that Woodson, following such a long layoff, was able to maintain his focus after missing his first chance at a pick.
“After the first one where it dropped out of his hands, we just tried to tell him to wipe it, go on to the next play,” Scott said. “He said a little joke to me in the locker room at halftime, said, `Next one, I’ll get it.’
“It just put a smile on my face.”
Wilcox reacted the same way.
“In the first half he had an opportunity, and he makes that play most of the time,” Wilcox said. “He didn’t make it and of course he was frustrated about that. I just love the fact that he kept playing and he made the next one.
“That’ll be an emphasis when we show it (in meetings). There’s plays sometimes you expect to make and it doesn’t go your way. But not dropping his head, giving up on himself and continuing to play . . . he made a heck of a play.”
In the video above, Woodson provides a post-game assessment of Cal’s overall performance on defense in its 34-13 victory over Davis.
Cover photo of Craig Woodson returning his interception for a touchdown by Darren Yamashita, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.