Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey and the Best Two-Way Players in Recent NFL History
In recent history, the art of playing both sides of the ball is something that seems to be limited to high school football. As football fans, we've been lucky enough to witness a handful of players who have been modern day throwback. Owen Marecic, linebacker/fullback for the Stanford Cardinal, is the latest player to demand respect.
In a game earlier this season in South Bend, Marecic scored twice in 13 seconds, powering in a goal-line run, and then subsequently picking off a pass for a touchdown on the next play after the kickoff.
In an interview after the game, Marecic said, "It wasn't one of my best games."
Players like Marecic are models for young athletes. They embody the desire to do whatever is necessary to win, and play with heart. Anyone who knows the hard-knock nature of football would agree that linebacker and fullback are the most dominant positions in the race for head-to-head collisions.
In fact, Marecic spent his entire 2010 season either blowing up a fullback, or knocking down a linebacker. This all sounds pretty impressive for a guy to led the team in GPA, acquiring a 3.8 last season. Don't forget, this is Stanford.
Marecic reminds me of the beloved Charles Woodson, who still remains the only versatile player to win the Heisman Trophy. When I say versatile, I mean just that: Woodson was a lockdown corner, an explosive kick and punt returner and a deep threat decoy, allowing the Wolverines offense to spread the field. Players who make big plays in big games are the ones we remember, and that was Woodson's M.O.
In the epic rivalry game that is Ohio State vs. Michigan, he recorded a dazzling punt return touchdown, picked off a pass in the end zone that prevented a Buckeyes score and caught a 37-yard pass that eventually led to points.
In his first year in the NFL in 1998, Woodson recorded five interceptions, taking one back for six points. Since his rookie season, Woodson has recorded 45 interceptions, not including this season.
Then along came Champ Bailey.
Bailey was actually more of a threat then Woodson on offense, accumulating over 700 yards and eight touchdowns during his junior season in Georgia. He also anchored the defensive secondary, recording 52 tackles and three interceptions. Similar to Woodson, Bailey even returned kicks and punts, averaging over 100 all-purpose yards per game.
Bailey has recorded 48 interceptions in the NFL since being drafted, a number eerily similar to Charles Woodson. He was part of a blockbuster deal rarely seen in the NFL, and was swapped with star running back Clinton Portis, sending Bailey to Denver where he has been playing since 2004.
Surely, there were more of these unique talents in recent history, right?
Not really, but in a discussion such as this, Eric Weddle has to have his name mentioned.
The former Utah Ute embodied the desire of an all-around football player, forcing a school record nine fumbles at strong safety during his career. He also produced 10 sacks, 18 interceptions, numerous deflected passes and even threw for a touchdown. On 52 carries, Weddle racked up over 250 yards and six touchdowns throughout his time in Utah.
Similar to the other players on this list, he also returned punts and kicks, but to his unique credit, also was the placeholder for field goals. Weddle was everywhere, noted as being on the field almost as much as the referees.
It's too bad we don't see more of this kind of thing, but the reasons why we don't are pretty obvious: The game has become more complex, and for players to attend both offensive and defensive meetings means they have to possess some serious motivation.
In Owen Marecic's case, his ability to play in the two power positions almost make him better then most other two-way stars. He's the first running back to play on defense since Holy Cross star Gordie Lockbaum, who finished fifth in the Heisman voting race in 1986.
Marecic will become an exclusive fullback in the NFL presumably, but don't be surprised when you see him trot out on defense or special teams. He might get a little restless on the sideline, a place he's not used to standing behind.
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