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Underestimated

Holder of 21 DII records, Danny Woodhead disproves his doubters

Chadron State’s Danny Woodhead was named the 2007 CoSIDA Football Academic All-American of the Year for the College Division. Chadron State College photo

The impression Danny Woodhead left on the first carry of his college career, in a game against Minnesota Duluth, showed no signs of what was to come.

“His first play, he got the ball, and we got a real nice hole on one of our zone plays,” says John Reiners, the former running backs coach at Chadron State who is now head coach at Black Hills State. “He was so excited and going so fast that he tripped over the line and tackled himself.”

But from that point on, neither Woodhead nor his would-be tacklers had much success bringing him down. Three plays later, he scored a 16-yard touchdown on the way to becoming the leading rusher in NCAA history with 7,962 career yards for Chadron State. Today, he remains the Division II leader and is second in all divisions.

Tall on talent

Danny Woodhead holds 21 Division II football records, including the following: 

Most Rushing Yards Gained
Season: 2,756 (344 rushes)
Career: 7,962 (1,156 rushes)

Most Games Gaining 100 Yards or More in a Career
37 (played in 44)
Tied with Xavier Omon of Northwest Missouri State (played in 54)

Most Games Gaining 200 Yards or More in a Career
19 (played in 44)

Most All-Purpose Yards Gained
Season: 3,159 (2,756 rushing, 403 receiving)
Career: 9,480 (7,962 rushing, 1,417 receiving, 101 kickoff returns)

Most Touchdowns Scored
Season: 38 (34 rushing, 4 receiving)
Tied with Xavier Omon of Northwest Missouri State (37 rushing, 1 receiving)
Career: 109 (101 rushing, 8 receiving in 44 games)
Tied with Germaine Race of Pittsburg State (107 rushing, 2 receiving in 52 games)

Most Consecutive Games Scoring a Touchdown
38

The Lincoln Journal Star in his native Nebraska once asked Woodhead if he could believe those dazzling numbers. Woodhead replied: “Sure. Look at the guys I played with. The lines. The quarterbacks. The coaches. The defenses that got us the ball. And a lot of those people are good friends. That’s the most important part of all of this.”

A two-time Harlon Hill Award winner as the top Division II football player, Woodhead holds 21 Division II records, including 2,756 rushing yards in 2006.

He was also a star in high school, attaining the Nebraska Class A career rushing record. But Division I schools overlooked the 5-foot-8 running back. Their loss was a gain for Chadron State, where Woodhead’s brother, Ben, was a wide receiver and his dad, Mark, played in the 1970s.

His first season, Woodhead scored an NCAA freshman-record 25 rushing touchdowns and 27 overall.

“Every week, it was a challenge for us as an offensive staff because everybody knew we were going to give him the ball,” says former Chadron State football coach Bill O’Boyle, now South Dakota’s offensive line coach.

As a junior, Woodhead got to take on Montana State — a Division I school that had passed on him.

“We were warming up, and their fans were calling us every name in the book that had to do with being small,” Reiners recalls. “Danny walks over to me, puts his arm on my shoulder and goes, ‘Coach, this is why I play college football.’”

He rushed for 215 yards, caught six passes and scored two touchdowns to lead his Eagles to victory.

Woodhead wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine or selected in the 2008 draft. He entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent. He begins the 2017 season with 93 regular-season and 10 playoff games under his belt in a nine-year pro career.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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