Nebraska native Danny Woodhead savors family time after retirement from NFL

Danny Woodhead carried the CSG torch into Seacrest Stadium Friday night and lit the cauldron to signal the official opening of the 34th annual event.

Ten years after his first NFL training camp, Danny Woodhead is enjoying a summer when his only focus is tucking his four kids into bed every night and doing what they want to do.

Over are the days when the former North Platte and Chadron State running back had to spend this time of year looking for a new place for him and his wife Stacia to call home for two-thirds of the year.

While he enjoyed his time playing for the New York Jets, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens, it’s time for the 33-year-old to be home this season in Omaha. Woodhead retired from the NFL in March and now has time for summer events such as the Cornhusker State Games opening ceremonies.

Woodhead carried the CSG torch into Seacrest Stadium Friday night and lit the cauldron to signal the official opening of the 34th annual event. Before taking a lap around the field, Woodhead took some time to reflect on the importance of family and the football career that took him everywhere from Memorial Stadium to the Super Bowl.

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Q: You’re a former CSG participant. In what sports did you participate?

A: I played soccer. That was one of the tournaments we’d come and play in every year. It was always a good time. It’s always cool to be a part of the games.

Q: They have been trying to get you to be the torch lighter at this event for several years. Was it just too close to the start of training camp?

A: I didn’t have a rule, but it was kind of a rule to not do anything before camp. Not just things like this, but anything. I have kids, man. People don’t understand that when you go to camp, you don’t stay with your family.

Q: You don’t get to see them much during that stretch, correct?

A: Right. You’re in a hotel, you’re in a dorm, for like close to a month. Whenever it comes to this time, it was off-limits because it was family time. Stuff like this could wait until a later date when I was done playing. At the end of the day, my kids and my family are very important to me.

Q: How are you feeling now that you’re four months into your retirement from football?

A: Overall health, I’m doing great. As far as mental, everyone wants to ask that question. I feel great. It’s nice to not be putting a lot of stress on my body.

Q: If somebody (from an NFL team) came calling midseason looking for a running back, would you take the call?

A: Nope. I’m done. I’m not someone who’s hanging on. I don’t have any desire to put on a football helmet again. I love the game, and I felt like, for the 10 years I was in it, I gave everything I had, and I loved it. Someone told me “You’ll know when you’re done.” I knew when I was done.

Q: Did you have some offers to play another season?

A: I never ended up getting an offer. Do I think there would have been offers? Yes. The biggest thing is, I didn’t want to move my family again. We’d live in Omaha for 3½, four months out of the year, and we lived somewhere else for about eight months.

Q: So you took the whole family with you every season?

A: I’m someone who’s not going to leave my family back. My family is too important to me and I want to be there for my kids’ lives. I wanted to be in the mix of their lives. If I want to take my daughter to ballet, I can take her to ballet. It’s just the everyday things, getting them ready for bed. I don’t want to miss those things.

Q: Have you decided what your next career path will be?

A: Honestly, this first year, I’m just taking a deep breath. I know that sounds crazy to some, but I’ve been go-go-go for 10 years. The last three months, it was weird at first, but it’s been the most refreshing thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m also looking forward to being a little more involved in my church, but that’s tough to do when you’re playing every Sunday.

Q: What are some of the most exciting things you’ll remember about playing football?

A: There’s not many things better than walking out and playing in front of 70,000 fans at the stadium, then millions on TV. If that doesn’t give you some sort of a rush, I don’t know what will.

Q: So you’re fine being back in Nebraska when the NFL season kicks off in September?

A: I want to be back in the state that I love. I want to be home. When you’ve been gone for so long, it’s awesome to be home and see my kids, but my siblings, my wife’s parents, that’s what life is about. That’s what’s really cool to me right now.

Q: Speaking of cool, you caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl from Tom Brady. What other football moments will stay with you?

A: That’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in sports. My whole family was there. My wife’s whole family was there. Honestly, something that’s right up there with that was being able to play in the state championship game with my brother and my dad as a coach (in 2001). That was pretty sick; that was cool.

Q: Do you get tired of people asking you for stories about Bill Belichick, Brady and Rob Gronkowski from your days with the Patriots?

A: Not really. I don’t mind it. It’s great that I got to play with arguably the best quarterback ever, the best coach ever, and all the great teammates who were there. Shoot, I don’t have anything but good things to say about Gronk. He was very selfless, but that’s how all those guys are. They’re more about the team than themselves.

Q: Which of the four towns you played in was your favorite?

A: San Diego. That’s where two of our kids were born, and I felt like it was a place where I finally felt respected. Maybe the better word is appreciated, because you’re respected wherever you play for your abilities. They were excited to have me there. We loved it there.

Q: Ever think about making San Diego home instead of Omaha?

A: It was awesome, and we loved it, and some people asked us why don’t we just move to San Diego. Nebraska’s home. You can’t understand that until you’ve lived there.

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