Three years into his NFL career, Danny Woodhead still retains a certain status in the Cornhusker State and elsewhere in this football nation. For instance, most weeks he's still the most-searched name on newyorkjets.com.
"I don't know about being a rock star," Woodhead said with a smile in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room this week. "But if people may notice me, that's great, that's awesome to have. The people in Nebraska and around here have been unbelievable. That's definitely very encouraging and I'm very appreciative of that."
Some other, more critical football watchers may think Woodhead's in danger of having his bubble burst in the days after tonight's preseason finale at Philadelphia. Do the Jets have room on their 53-man roster this year for the 5'9", 200-pound former Division II dynamo? Is this the year the Turk takes his playbook from him and doesn't give it back?
But anyone who thinks that might happen could be overlooking two powerful influences: recent history and Rex Ryan.
Last year's Eagles preseason game at the old Meadowlands stadium was Woodhead's coming-out party in green and white. In that fourth preseason game, when second and third units rule the night and jobs at the back end of the roster are won and lost, the kid from Chadron State reined supreme. He ran up and down the turf to the tune of 158 rushing yards, 168 from scrimmage, in the Jets' pullaway 38-27 win.
His 55-yard touchdown run in the second quarter remains the Jets' longest summer run in the last four years. His 3-yard score in the third period gave the Green & White their first lead of the game and one they never lost.
"I don't think that game really did anything for me. I just went out there and played football," he said with a modest Midwestern shrug. "I had some linemen out there that gave me a chance to run the ball and I was able to do what I felt like I've been made to do, and that's run the football, make some plays. There was never a doubt I could make plays up here. It was just a matter of it happening."
As for Ryan, the head coach was asked what roster spots are still open and waiting to be won against the Eagles.
"Quite honestly, just a football player spot," Rex said. "Can this dude can help us? Is he a good football player? That's what we're looking at. ... Danny Woodhead.
"The more I'm around Woodhead, the more I'm like, 'Is this in pencil or is this in pen yet?' That's how I look at it. The kid is a player. We throw him out there at wideout today he's killing us. Two days in a row. He can play running back, wideout and special teams.
"Danny? It's hard not to pull for that dude."
Woodhead, whose uniform No. 27 is his third in a year (he started last summer at 22, then switched to 83), said he's split out wide or in the slot out of the backfield but acknowledged that he's played more WR this week than he had previously this preseason, but that doesn't put any extra pressure on his sturdy shoulders.
"The thing I've tried to do every since I came in as a rookie, I've tried to learn the offense, and not necessarily just my position," he explained. "So that's helped me a little bit, like last year when I made a little bit of a transition doing both things. Whatever I have to do this year, it's really helped me along with the meetings, so it's not crazy in my head."
The ones going crazy are the Eagles and other opponents who will try to nail him down in open space. And perhaps some of his Green & White teammates who are also somewhere on that crowded roster bubble, needing touches or tackles or some other big plays to catch the coaches' eyes and make it through Saturday's final cutdown and all the days after that next week up until they can come out of the tunnel and through the smoke as members of the 53-man opening night roster.
Woodhead, who was cut himself last Sept. 6, then signed to the practice squad and finally in October to the active roster, was asked if he had some advice for those players.
"I think people get caught in that trap a little too much," he said. "Realistically, you can only do what you can do. You're not going to make the decisions. All you can do is play your best football, so that's what I try to do. I try to go out there and play my best football. Things are going to work out how they're going to work out. God has a plan for me in my life and that's what I truly believe and that's what's going to happen."
And there's a pretty good chance that his fans in Jets Nation and the state of Nebraska will notice him again this evening.
Here are the top six preseason yards-from-scrimmage games in the NFL since 1992:
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