Take a photographic trip through the series history between the Broncos and the Raiders.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **When Northern California native Julius Thomas was asked what Raiders players he remembers watching as a child at the Coliseum, he listed the names of Napoleon Kaufman, Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson…
"…Charles Woodson – he was still playing then," Thomas said with a smile.
The fourth-year tight end was 9 years old when Woodson was drafted fourth overall by the Raiders in April of 1998. In his 10th season with Oakland – split up by a seven-year sabbatical in Green Bay – the 38-year-old corner-turned-safety has shown he's still got it, nabbing two interceptions in eight games so far, a year after falling one tackle short of his career high with 75.
Hmm… a 17-year veteran and Pro Bowl machine still plugging away with convincing effectiveness. Sounds familiar.
The Broncos own member of the 1998 draft class will face Woodson for the seventh time Sunday. Peyton Manning, who went No. 1 overall to the Colts, is 3-3 head-to-head against Woodson in the NFL
However, Woodson picked up a win between the two before the pair ever reached the pros: Michigan's DB topped Tennessee's QB in the 1997 Heisman Trophy voting, 1,815 points to 1,543, to become the only primarily defensive player ever awarded the honor. Here they are at the ceremony, joined by Ryan Leaf and a very sharply dressed Randy Moss (who finished third and fourth, respectively), as finalists for the award given to college football's most outstanding player:
Today, Manning and Woodson comprise half of the players remaining from the 1998 NFL rookie class. Matt Hasselbeck, a sixth-round pick of the Packers, hasn't started a game in two calendar years but is in his second season as Andrew Luck's backup in Indianapolis. Former undrafted free agent kicker Phil Dawson became the Browns' all-time leading scorer before joining the 49ers for the past two seasons.
Of course, Manning and Woodson are still logging as many snaps as any of their teammates, and maintaining high levels of production while doing it.
"For both of us to still be playing 17 years later just says a lot about both players and what the game means to us," Woodson said on a conference call with Denver media Wednesday, adding that he and Manning each qualify as a "generational player."
"It's fun to watch him from afar," Woodson said with a hint of a laugh. "It's not fun to play against him all the time, but it's fun to watch him. It's a testament to the way he works, the way he approaches the game, and he's just continued to do great things."
The Broncos' quarterback had equally high praise for the Raiders' cagey veteran.
"He's making plays with his cover skills and kind of roaming-ranging skills," Manning said, "but I see him sticking his nose and shoulders in there making tackles like he did when he was 23, 24 years old, so that is a credit to him. He's kept himself in great shape, taking great care of his body.
"That he could play that long at that position [shows] that you have a real passion for football, so he's truly a great player and truly a unique athlete."
Count Head Coach John Fox as one of those who isn't surprised to see Woodson, who the Broncos hoped to sign prior to the 2013 season, still playing at a high level.
"I thought he had a lot of football left, and I think he's proved that there at Oakland," Fox said. "I think his play supports why we were going after him. He's a tremendous player, in my opinion a Hall of Fame player, and we wanted him to be part of our team."
Woodson has never picked off No. 18 in his career, though his teams did collect six interceptions in three wins over Manning's Colts, including two pick-sixes by the Packers' D in a game in 2008. Since the DB returned to Oakland, however, Manning has gone an astoundingly efficient 57-of-65 (88 percent) for 640 yards and seven touchdowns against zero picks in just six quarters against the Raiders.
For two players who exited college standing on the same extravagant stage, it will be a treat to see Manning and Woodson on the same field again in Sunday's game, which should bring a few opportunities to test each other's enduring skills.
And if the timing works out, it's possible we'll see the pair sharing another stage in a few years, though the attire may be a little different. Instead of their black jackets from the Heisman ceremony, both will be donning gold.