The Backstory: Fall camp is a special time for a football team. It signals the return of old traditions, the excitement of a new season, and the opportunity to strap on the pads for yet another memorable season. In the case of Arizona State players, fall camp takes on an even greater significance as it typically means a trip up to Camp Tontozona.
Throughout the years, "Camp T" has been a place where teammates become brothers, and the program becomes a family. It's also been a place where newcomers hit the radar of new coaches, and where walk-ons grow into potential contributors. That's exactly the case for Sun Devil star Darren Woodson, who came to Arizona State in 1987 as an unheralded walk-on.
With a strong fall camp in 1989, Woodson went from barely having a spot on the roster to becoming an integral part of the starting lineup. Woodson's story is one of trials, triumphs, and tribulations, but it's only fitting that it culminates in success. Today, we honor one of the hardest working Sun Devils in No. 6 Darren Woodson.
The Player: Darren Woodson (1987-1991)
It's hard to imagine an NFL great having to walk-on to compete for a spot during his college days, but it's hard to imagine the background of Darren Woodson. The Phoenix native grew up in a single-parent family with his mother in a crime-ridden neighborhood known a Maryvale. Woodson attended the local public high school, which was not known for producing college talent.
After attending Maryvale High, Woodson enrolled at Arizona State with the hopes of making the team as a walk-on. A gritty competitor with a passion for football, Woodson needed plenty of coaching and fine tuning to help prepare his game for the next level. Fortunately, the Sun Devil linebacker coach was future NFL head coach Lovie Smith, and he knew just what it took to mold Woodson into a player.
Though he looked more like a defensive back, the undersized Woodson played outside linebacker at Arizona State and started opposite prolific tackler Mark Tingstad in 1989. With teams unwilling to run toward Tingstad, they tested the former walk-on and he proved more than capable as he racked up a career-high 122 tackles in his debut season.
Amazingly, Woodson took home Honorable Mention All Pac-10 honors, and he wound up being a vital part of Arizona State's defense. The following season, Woodson started at outside linebacker and repeated as an Honorable Mention All Pac-10 player.
By his third and final playing season, Darren Woodson had overcome the "undersized" tag and instead took on the "playmaker" tag. Woodson became one of just a handful of Sun Devils to earn All Conference honors three straight times as he took home Honorable Mention recognition yet again in 1991.
From his troubled beginnings as an academically ineligible walk-on to fighting to earn a scholarship and playing time, Darren Woodson endured quite the journey. But he came out of it on top, and that's why he still stands as the greatest Sun Devil to ever wear No. 6.
In the Pros: If you didn't follow Woodson's career at Arizona State, you couldn't possibly miss him in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Woodson in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft with the intention of shifting him to safety and the move paid off.
Woodson enjoyed a prolific NFL career and became the Cowboys' all-time career leader in tackles with 1,350. Woodson played in five Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls during his time in Dallas and was considered one of the fiercest hitters of any professional defensive back.
Who Wears It Now?
Chans Cox: If No. 6 didn't already have a storied legacy among local players, Cox has the ability to truly make No. 6 into something special. The Blue Ridge High School product is a true freshman this year who has the potential to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. As the most highly touted recruit of the Graham era so far, Cox has big expectations ahead of him.