A Weekend with a Hall of Famer
By Bill Bray
FREMONT – September 3, as proclaimed by Fremont mayor Danny Sanchez “Charles Woodson Day in the City of Fremont.” The mayor could have made it Charles Woodson weekend, because it was a weekend surely dedicated to the great young man who has put Fremont Ohio on the map.
Through donations by the Fremont Foundation and other donors, Woodson unveiled a bronze statue of himself that will stand at the south gate of Don Paul Stadium. The statue, named “Build Your Legend,” was sculpted by Jason Jon Johnston of Perrysburg, Ohio. A project that normally would have taken him a year, was done in just five months. A huge Fremont Ross thank you goes out to his efforts. “It has sincerely been an honor to sculpt this statue of Charles for the residents and fans of Fremont,” Johnston said on his Facebook page. “What Charles Woodson has done both on and off the field is amazing. He and his entire family are so full of passion and love for life and everyone around them. It was a very inspiring and fantastic weekend.”
The statue was truly appreciated by the former Ross star. “I am running out of words to describe this,” Woodson began when asked what Friday evening meant to him. “It is just overwhelming and over the top, the amount of love shown to me tonight. And not just tonight but my whole entire life. Growing up here and being nurtured as a boy to a young man and then to come back here and, a statue? it is mind-blowing and overwhelming. My mission here was always just to win games. So, all this other stuff that is happening now is surreal.”
Another highlight for Woodson was to meet with the 2021 Little Giant football team before the battle against rival Sandusky. Woodson said, “I’ve gone from here and accomplished a lot of different things, but the simple fact remains is that I am from here. And I told the players before the game. ‘No matter what it is, no matter what you want to do, whether you stay here or leave and go do something else, it’s out there for you. And you can do it from here. So never let that be a hurdle or an obstacle just because you are from a small town like Fremont. You can be from small town Fremont and go on to do extraordinary things.”
Saturday was equally as celebratory for Fremont’s favorite Little Giant. The day started with a luncheon that was organized by the owner and staff of Journey’s. Bobby Carter, owner of Journey wanted to join in the celebration of Woodson. The luncheon and honor bestowed on Woodson was a great one. Charles later said “Bobby Carter, it’s a great job you are doing at your spot for our great community.”
Saturday evening during a celebration at the Fremont Country Club, the committee members of the event were singled out by Woodson as he stepped to the podium. He paid homage to two members. “Art Bucci, I know he had a lot to do with this whole event,” Woodson said. Then as he continued to mention names, he got to his second-grade teacher, Robin Mohr, “she would always get me on the playground at Atkinson,” Woodson said, “and put me against the wall because we were playing tackle football. ‘Charles get against that wall, I told you there was no tackle football allowed.’ Woodson, with a chuckle said, ‘didn’t she know then that that was what I am going to do the rest of my life?’
Another person singled out during the event by Woodson was mayor Danny Sanchez, “Man, all that you have done. Earlier this year I was on a zoom call and found out that a portion of the route 20 bypass was going to be named for me and I know you had a great deal to do with that. So, I appreciate you.” Woodson then continued thanking the sponsors, “Fremont Area Foundation, Fremont Ross Athletic Boosters, Woleslagel Moving Company, Warner Mechanical, Fremont Federal Credit Union, Crown Battery, Sprauss Insurance, and Bender Teammates. I just wanted to thank everyone by name.” Woodson then thanked the Fremont Country Club whose meal and atmosphere were second to none.
“What a ride it has been for me,” Woodson began. “For a guy to grow up here in Fremont, Ohio. To be in this position and to be here in front of all of you now, Wow! That’s all I can say. This has been one of the most incredible visits home that I have ever had in my entire life.”
“As I said earlier when I walked into that locker room and saw that there was food available for the kids before the game, after the game, I thought about all the football moms, sports moms that were around back when I played” Woodson said. “They always made sure that we were fed before and after the game. The parents always made sure that their young man or men had everything they needed to compete. So, when I mentioned in my hall of fame speech our community, that’s real, that all went down right here. It is what I told the kids last night before the game, whatever you want, you can have it. You dream it you can achieve it, but you got to want it first. And if you want it, this community will help nurture that.” Woodson paid tribute to his teammates that were present from his high school days. “It wasn’t just me out there playing football, it was all my teammates. All the accolades I have achieved through in life I have never done it by myself. Never without my family, never without the friends, never without my teammates, never without my coaches. So, I want to thank everyone in this community who helped me along that way. We accomplished a lot, together.”
Woodson finished by telling of another stop he made around town on Saturday afternoon, and it was not told without emotion for the football superstar. “Today I was able to go back to Delaware Acres. Delaware Acres is where I grew up. It’s funny because when we got there, we walked to the apartment where I grew up,” Woodson’s voice began to crack. “There were two kids out there playing and man, if I didn’t see myself. I wore my hall of fame jacket. I got in a stance and one of the kids was playing receiver. My nephew took the picture. It was right in front of where I grew up. Same apartment building. That kid is me.” Woodson said as he became emotional. “And I am him. So, when I was talking to the young men before the game last night, that is what I was talking about.”
The evening concluded with a stirring comment from Roxanne Price. “This is community,” Price said following Woodson’s speech. “One of my greatest moments was being inducted into the Fremont Ross Hall of Fame. That night, Charles Woodson sat behind me because he was being honored as a high school junior and I knew he was going to do special things then. Yes, you grow where you are planted, Charles”, Roxie said to Woodson. “Those gold cleats that you mentioned that you took from Fremont Ohio into the National Football League Hall of Fame, those gold cleats right now are clicking their heels and they are saying ‘there is no place like home, there is no place like home.” Price continued “Thank you Charles for coming home. Ladies and gentlemen when you depart this evening remember, win, lose or draw you ARE in Little Giant country.”