Aside from his stunning athletic gifts, defensive back Charles Woodson was known in Oakland for occasionally snoozing during meetings, believing that film study was irrelevant and being a man-about-town in terms of the Bay Area night life.

Woodson was good enough to make the Pro Bowl in his first four NFL seasons (1998-2001), but his career failed to launch until the Raiders let him walk as a free agent after the 2005 season.

Fast forward to 2013 as Green Bay prepares for Saturday's playoff game against the 49ers at Candlestick Park. Woodson, having returned from a broken collarbone for the Packers after missing nine games, is one of the NFL's most productive and respected players.

"He's a Hall of Famer," former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "He could be a difference-maker in this game against the 49ers."

As a Raider, Woodson had a DUI arrest while at a benefit golf tournament in Michigan and on another occasion was driven by a female acquaintance to the Oakland police station when he and a teammate refused to get out of the car.

Woodson, 36, is no longer an eligible bachelor. He's married and the father of two boys. In 2009, Woodson donated $2 million to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Earlier this season, he wrote a $100,000 check to the Red Cross on behalf of Hurricane Sandy victims and campaigned on behalf of President Barack Obama.


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"He realizes how much he's been blessed," said former teammate and fellow Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown. "Getting married was a big deal for him. It slowed him down a lot. So did having a family, and the way social media is now, knowing that one day these kids are going to know everything he did."

Injuries such as a turf toe, a broken leg (twice) and a broken shoulder blade helped slow Woodson's ascent as a Raider, but both Gannon and Brown are of the belief that getting out of Oakland made all the difference.

"Green Bay was a career-saver for Charles," Gannon said. "He was an elite talent in Oakland, but he was never held accountable. He practiced the way he wanted to and played the way he wanted to. There wasn't the discipline and structure that he needed."

In 106 games with the Raiders, Woodson had 17 interceptions, 51/2 sacks and two touchdowns. In 100 games with the Packers, he has 38 interceptions, 111/2 sacks and nine TDs.

Because of his injury history and declining production, Green Bay was the only serious suitor.

"The maturity factor and the realization that, hey, this is my last stop, was enough for him to step up and do things the right way," Brown said.

Brown said he saw Woodson in 2007 and was surprised to see him looking bigger and stronger.

"He said he was lifting weights," Brown said. "In seven years I never saw him lift a weight in Oakland. He'd ride the bike and that was about it."

Woodson learned to embrace the entire week in Green Bay, rather than just game day.

"There was never any question about his talent," Gannon said. "I remember competing against him at training camp, and he was ridiculous. When he went to Green Bay, it was like a guy like Randy Moss going to the Patriots. You've got structure and discipline around you, and you've got to be a certain way and perform.

"There was this evolution where he became a completely different person, working with young players, being very unselfish."