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Redskins fullback Darrel Young and Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard impressed the same man to start their careers. On Sunday, they’ll collide at the line of scrimmage.
Both players started from the bottom. They were undrafted free agents who ran with opportunities extended by Mike Shanahan.
When Young watched film this week, he saw a kindred spirit in Woodyard, who is expected return to action after missing the past two weeks.
“(Running backs coach Bobby Turner) was talking about yesterday how (Woodyard) was a young guy, he was playing well and got his name made on scout team. He’s becoming a hell of a football player.” Young said.
In 2008, Woodyard signed with Denver as a college free agent from Kentucky. He played in all 16 games, started six and led the Broncos in special teams tackles. His teammates have voted him a team captain for the past five years.
Woodyard told the Denver media Wednesday how much he appreciated Shanahan giving him a shot. He said Shanahan treated everyone equally.
“He was one of those guys that always kept it straightforward,” Woodyard said.
“He never ‘B.S.’d’ anybody. He always told you exactly what you wanted to hear from a head coach. He never cut you short on anything. He kept it real. [We] had a straightforward relationship. I believed in him and he believed in me.”
According to Young, Shanahan hasn’t changed.
Young made Washington’s practice squad in 2009, but he didn’t join the Redskins’ active roster until Shanahan became head coach in 2010 and asked the college linebacker to try out at fullback.
In that season, Young played in 15 games, scored a touchdown on his first career reception and established himself as a stalwart on special teams.
He believed he would get his chance if he worked hard enough to please his head coach.
“I’ll never forget the first day I sat in meetings, I was sitting right behind Albert Haynseworth, and (Shanahan) said, ‘If you work hard, you’ll be here.’
“I was like, ‘I’ve got a chance then.’ They all say that, but who believes it? It’s just the way his message came across. I felt like I had a chance.”
Young said Shanahan often recounts the story of Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, the second pair of receivers in NFL history to each catch more than 100 passes in the same season.
The Broncos cut three former-first round picks at wide receiver in 1995 and put their trust in Smith, an undrafted player from Missouri Southern State, and McCaffrey, a third-rounder who played for the Giants and 49ers.
The players became key cogs on the Broncos’ Super bowl teams because of Shanahan had confidence in them.
“You can win like that and you want to be around a guy like that,” Young said. “At the end of the day everyone has to work hard to stay here and perform well.”
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