Generously listed at 5’8, it is hard to imagine Danny Woodhead as a pillar.
Formerly a member of the Jets, the now Patriots running back Woodhead is fast becoming a star in Foxboro. Cut in September, Woodhead was the perennially plucky running back who went undrafted out of tiny Chadron State in 2008 and fought his way onto the Jets roster. A season ending knee injury cut short his rookie campaign but Woodhead bounced back to contribute in a variety of ways for the Jets last season.
“He was a pillar of our team, even if he didn’t play as much as many of the guys. He’s basically just a great story,” said defensive tackle Sione Pouha. “He never stopped fighting, not through injuries, not through the adversity, he never stopped. I think an awful lot of him.”
And so to do the Patriots, who recently signed him to a contract through the 2012 season.
He played 10 games for the Jets over two seasons and contributed on special teams, played a little slot receiver and got some carries out of the backfield, but his time was limited behind then starting running back Thomas Jones and second round pick Shonn Greene.
This year, in just nine games with New England, Woodhead has more than five times the amount of rushing yards he accumulated while in New York and nearly three times the receiving yards. He also has registered the first three rushing touchdowns of his NFL career in New England blue and red.
The former undrafted free agent has found a home with one of the league’s most prolific offenses, something he couldn’t do with New York.
“I’m not surprised one bit by the success he’s had. I went against him every day in practice when he was with the scout team and he’s good, fast and strong for a player of his size,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas. “But it was tough for him – was he going to start over the players we had last year at running back or at receiver, or the guys we have this year? Probably not.”
But hindsight is 20-20, or so the saying goes, and the Jets might be regretting their decision to part ways with a player who is not only proving his versatility with New England, but also has found a certain amount of star quality.
“Do I regret cutting him? Yeah, absolutely,” head coach Rex Ryan said on Thursday. “Now I do.”
And the move for Woodhead is proving to be a shrewd one on and off the field for the Patriots. Earlier this week, it was reported that Woodhead was the hottest moving youth jersey that the Patriots sell. The diminutive and baby-faced Woodhead, who looked more like a water boy than a player while with the Jets, seems to be connecting with the kids market in New England and Pouha thinks he knows the reason why.
“I guess they all wanted to buy a jersey in the actual size that it is worn on the field,” Pouha said with a laugh.