Damien Woody is quite a busy man these days. As the offensive lineman for The New York Jets, Damien is ready to see his team tackle the playoffs and win Super Bowl XLIV. We spoke with the six foot three, three hundred forty pound gentle giant about his can-do team, his two previous Super Bowl wins, his mandatory Friday night date with his wife, Nicole, and how he’s just really a low-key kind of guy.
So, Damien, you have a little bit going on right now, huh?
Has the training gotten more intense now that you’re in the playoffs?
The training is the same as it’s been all season long. It’s a little more condensed to keep everyone as fresh as possible. Now is not the time to be hurt, and if you do get hurt, you have to suck it up and address it after the season ends.
Have you been hurt before?
Damien: Nothing major. I’ve had my fair share of injuries. But nothing that a little TLC couldn’t take care of. Ain’t that right, Honey?
Nicole (who is in the kitchen, calls out): What?
Damien: See, she’s not even listening to me. [laughs]
How do you prep yourself mentally for the Super Bowl?
It’s always in the back of my head. Going to the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal. I take it one day at a time; I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, because you can set yourself up for failure. This is the only way I know how to do it. I’ve been successful twice doing it my way, and I’m not going to change it now! Being in this position now, though, is really exciting. It’s reaching the pinnacle of your career. There’s nothing bigger to achieve. And in my career, I’ve achieved everything I’ve wanted. When I came into the NFL, I had goals that I wanted to achieve, and I’ve achieved every last one of them.
What were they?
When I came out of college, I wanted to be a number one pick for a team, and I was. There were also many personal accolades. I won two Super Bowls. I’ve done everything I set out for.
How are you feeling physically?
I feel great! As long as my body and mind hold up, I’ll keep going. Because I’m older, I know how to take care of my body. When you’re younger, you feel invincible. You don’t do the things you should, like doing rehab, or things that will help maintain you. As you get older, you need it. It takes longer to recover. I came into the League when I was 20, and after a game, I didn’t even feel like I had played! You bounce back so fast. Now that I’m 32, I don’t bounce back as fast. I do everything possible to keep myself in the best shape I can be in.
Have you thought about your career post-football?
Absolutely. You have to. The average career span for a football player is 3 years. I’m very lucky that I’ve had the long career that I’ve had. I know that once I retire, I would like to go into media. I was a communications major in college, and TV and radio have always been my passion. Over the years, I’ve had lots of exposure with the media. It’s all about reputation.
But you don’t have any plans on retiring now?!
This is my 11th year. I’ll keep playing until my body breaks down or my wife tells me to stop! [laughs] That happens a lot. As players, we spend so much time dedicated to football that it can wear on your family.
And with so much traveling, it must be even harder on your family.
It’s tough. It’s a delicate balancing act. My mind is so focused, but at the same time, you leave one job and come home to another. It’s something lots of athletes have to deal with. You’re on call all the time. And I’m a very light sleeper; I hear everything. On top of that, I’m kind of a night owl; I’m not a morning person at all. I’m grouchy in the morning. I’ve been doing it for so long, though, so I can’t break the habit.
You can always buy Nicole something nice to make up for the cranky mornings.
It’s not going to fly. I’ve used that excuse quite a few times! [laughs]
Let’s talk a bit about your relationship. You and Nicole have been together for 15 years. How did you meet?
Nicole: We met in homeroom in 9th grade.
Who liked who first?
Nicole: I think it was mutual, but for that first year of high school, we were just good friends. When he got his driver’s license and he gained that confidence, then he asked me out. We went to prom together, too. We’ve been together as long as I can remember.
And now six kids later…
Nicole: Yes, married ten years with six kids. Our kids are very good kids, though. They are very easy-going and go with the flow. The kids take after Damien.
How do you find your balance with six kids, their schedules and your hectic football schedule?
Damien: We always make time for ourselves. It’s automatic. Friday nights are our date nights. Every Friday night, we do something, no matter what it is. It’s mandatory. It’s easy to get burned out and frustrated when you have so many demands on you. It’s even more important for Nicole, because she’s home with the kids. She doesn’t have as much of that that adult conversation like I have at work. And we look forward to our time together, with no interruptions! [laughs]
Let’s talk about Woody’s Kids, your non-profit.
When I was playing with the Detroit Lions, a guy approached me to see if I wanted to help out with an organization that helped cancer-stricken kids. We helped with medical bills, and we gave the kids all expense-paid trips to Disney. It was hard seeing kids pass away. The families were so grateful to us for giving their kids such great memories.
So now that you’re in the playoffs, what are your feelings?
I think it’s a blessing. To be one of twelve teams that can play is an honor. As a veteran, I know how hard it is to get to this level. Some of the younger players think it’s so easy, but my last trip to the playoffs was ‘03-‘04. I didn’t think I was going to get to the playoffs again.
What is that moment like, winning the Super Bowl?
Damien: It’s beyond words. Nicole cries. [laughs]
Nicole: It’s almost like having your first child again. It’s an overwhelming feeling. It’s so prideful. It’s a family moment. He’s worked so hard, and then we get to celebrate together.
And you’ve been to almost every game.
Nicole: I’ve only missed 4-5 games in the last eleven years.
Damien: Both times we went to the Super Bowl she was extremely pregnant. I love having my family there at the games.
Damien, you are very low-key. On the field, though…
Damien: [laughs] It’s like Jekyll and Hyde. As you get closer to game time, it’s like a quiet storm. You’re in the moment; your adrenaline is rushing and it all comes out. There have been a few times I’ve been so pumped up and I dropped some F-bombs. I’ve had many calls from my mom saying, “Damien! I didn’t know you said those things?!” [laughs] On the field, I’m one way. But off the field, I’m just like this. Quiet, reserved. As long as I have something to eat and a bed to lie in, I’m good. This is me. This is really all it is, right here.