Defensive back Donnell Woolford of the Chicago Bears goes up for the ball during a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on Jan. 7, 1995. The 49ers won the game, 44-15.
As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.
We continue the countdown with our Number 27 selection, which goes to one of the best cornerbacks in Bears history, Donnell Woolford.
Woolford, who was the 11th overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft out of Clemson, was a one man wrecking crew on the Bears’ secondary during the early part of the 1990s. In eight seasons with the team, he started in 111 games for the Monsters of the Midway, intercepting 32 passes and returning one for a touchdown. He also picked up three sacks and 536 tackles in his Bears career, and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance in 1993 for his efforts.
Unquestionably, Woolford’s 1992 season was the best of his career. He blossomed into a tremendous athlete that season, picking off seven passes (good for 4th in the NFL) and also forced two fumbles. Add to that the 94 tackles he had (just shy of his career high of 101, which he achieved in 1993), and the season is one of the most well-rounded by a Bears’ cornerback in recent memory.
Woolford’s interception total of 32 was a Bears team record until Charles Tillman broke the mark in 2012.
Just like other former Bears players who have been on this list so far, Woolford is still active in the Chicago community. In addition to occasional TV appearances to discuss the Bears, he is also the chairman of the Greater Chicago Flag Football League. The league is “committed to providing the most exciting, fun and safe experience” for kids in the community, and Woolford has partnered up with former Bears running back Adrian Peterson to push the league forward.
The cornerback position is one of the most under-appreciated spots on a team’s defense. While pass rushers get plaudits for sacks and linebackers are known for bruising hits and athletic plays, cornerbacks are at their best when they aren’t noticed. That means they are adequately covering their assigned opponents, and quarterbacks can’t find them open down the field.
Woolford definitely fit that bill for the team, and is worthy of a spot in the Top 30. He may not have the pinache of some of the ’85 Bears or the legendary status of a guy like Tillman, but he was a consistent and solid player for the team for many years, and he made his position look easy for the team.