Chicago Bears Top 100: #73 Donnell Woolford
We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears. It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.
The Bears selected Donnell Woolford out of Clemson 11th overall in the 1989 draft. Woolford didn’t have great size (5’9, 192), but ran a 4.40 40-time at the combine, showed a willingness to tackle, and was an excellent coverage corner at Clemson becoming the first player in school history to have 3 games with 10 or more pass deflections. He also returned punts, finishing 3rd in the nation as a junior with a 15 ypr average and 2 TD returns. It didn’t take long for Woolford to make an impact in Chicago. As a rookie he beat out Lemuel Stinson for the starting cornerback job vacated by Mike Richardson when he left for the Raiders that off-season.
Woolford struggled with injuries as a rookie eventually missing 5 games, but started the other 11 and held his starting position for the next seven years. He showed steady improvement his first 3 years in the league but had a breakout season in his 4th year (1992) with 7 interceptions (2nd in NFL), 94 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and the 7th best yards per punt return average in the NFL. Woolford probably should have made the Pro Bowl in ’92, but he earned enough attention that he made it in ’93. He only had 2 INTs in ’93 but teams weren’t throwing the ball to Woolford’s man, choosing instead to pick on rookie corner Jeremy Lincoln. Woolford had a career high 101 tackles in ’93 and made his first (and only) Pro Bowl appearance. Despite a lack of recognition, Woolford played Pro Bowl caliber cornerback for the Bears for the next three season intercepting 15 passes over that stretch despite missing 8 games. The Bears let Woolford go in free agency before the ’97 season and he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played for one season (4 INTs) before retiring.
Woolford played for the Bears for 8 seasons, starting every game he suited up for and playing at a Pro Bowl level for most of his time with the team. He made 532 tackles and intercepted 32 passes during his time with the Bears. His 32 interceptions was a Bears record until Charles Tillman broke it in 2012. To Woolford’s credit it took him 18 fewer games to get to 32 picks than it did Tillman.