Abe Woodson

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Abe Woodson
refer to caption
Woodson in 1964
No. 40, 42
Position: Cornerback / Return specialist
Personal information
Date of birth: (1934-02-15)February 15, 1934
Place of birth: Jackson, Mississippi
Date of death: February 8, 2014(2014-02-08) (aged 79)
Place of death: Las Vegas, Nevada
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 188 lb (85 kg)
Career information
College: Illinois
NFL Draft: 1957 / Round: 2 / Pick: 15
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • Pro Bowl (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)
  • All-Pro (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)
Career NFL statistics
Kickoff return yards: 5,538
Punt return yards: 956
All purpose yards: 6,494
Player stats at PFR

Abraham Benjamin Woodson (February 15, 1934 – February 8, 2014) was an American football cornerback and kick returner who played nine seasons in the National Football League, mainly with the San Francisco 49ers. He also spent two years with the St. Louis Cardinals.[1]

Early years[edit]

Woodson played high school football for Austin High School in Chicago. Prior to joining the NFL, he played at the University of Illinois in football and track, setting the record for indoor 50 meters high hurdles twice and scoring three second half touchdowns against Michigan State during his time in Illinois.[2]


Woodson was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 1957 Draft after fulfilling a military commitment. The Niners were a year removed from being one game away from the NFL Championship Game. Unfortunately, the Niners never finished above third during Woodson's tenure, going 6-6, 7-5, 7-5, 7-6-1, 6-8, 2-12, and 4-10. He played two final seasons with St. Louis. While the Cardinals went 5-9 in 1965, they went 8-5-1 and finished two games out of playing for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.

As a kick returner, there were few who were better. Of all kick returners in NFL history, his average of 28.7 yards per return is well ahead of any others who have returned over 5000 yards worth of kicks. He had 193 returns for 5538 yards. He was also dangerous on punt returns, averaging 9 yards a return in his prime with the 49ers. He ranks 21st in career return yards, and his 28.7 average yards per return still ranks 4th all time. Combining his punt and kick return yards, he ranks 34th.


After leaving football, he worked as a life insurance agent. He became the grandfather of 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. He later lived in Las Vegas, where he served as a prison minister in connection with the Churches of Christ. He died on February 8, 2014, aged 79, just a week before his 80th birthday.[3]