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Thursday’s news that Cowboys linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware was named as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 came with all the appropriate congratulatory nods from fans around the league. With nine Pro Bowls, four first-team All-Pro accolades, a Super Bowl win (with Denver) and a spot on the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s under his belt, Ware is considered practically a shoo-in for Canton in his first-year of eligibility.

But along with Ware’s well-deserved advancement in the enshrinement process also came a twinge of disappointment for the Cowboys faithful. Safety Darren Woodson failed to make the list once again.

It remains an egregious oversight on the part of the Hall of Fame committee.

Woodson retired in 2003 as the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, with 1,350 of them over 12 seasons. He was instrumental in helping the club win their three Super Bowl rings as part of the 1990s dynasty, was named to five Pro Bowls, and is a four-time first-team All-Pro.

He was inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor as its 21st member in 2015, an honor that was meant to help make his case for Canton. Six times now, Woodson has made the list of semifinalists.

But as was the case for wide receiver Drew Pearson for 33 years after he became eligible for the Hall, Woodson is now the Cowboys’ patron saint of long-overdue gold jackets.

But being overlooked has practically become Woodson’s calling card. The day the Arizona native broke the Cowboys’ all-time tackles record? The exact same day the Emmitt Smith became the league’s all time rushing king. Many within the Cowboys organization weren’t even aware of Woodson’s achievement at the time. Even Woodson himself had bigger concerns.

“Honestly? No one cared, nor did I, that I broke a record,” Woodson said in Deep Blue: A Path to Safety, the outstanding profile piece the team produced on Woodson earlier this year. “I wanted to win this game.”

The Cowboys did not win the game that day. Woodson went home afterward rather than take part in the staged celebration of Smith’s legendary feat. It wasn’t out of a place of selfishness- that he wasn’t also being honored- but disappointment over the team’s three-point loss to Seattle.

More than the stats or the records, it’s that undying passion that Cowboys fans remember most to this day about Woodson. Unfortunately, passion isn’t one of the measurables that Hall of Fame voters can easily quantify when they’re faced with a roster of eligible veteran players.

“Darren Woodson came in in a time when we were putting safeties in the Hall of Fame for just hitting people,” Hall of Fame teammate and Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin said. “And Darren Woodson would lay a hit on you. But Darren Woodson also had the ability to take a tight end out, to play a slot receiver. That’s what safeties are doing now; it wasn’t what they were doing then.”

The last player from the three-Super Bowl dynasty to retire from the game, Woodson now hopes to join Smith, Irvin, Troy Aikman, Charles Haley, Deion Sanders, Larry Allen, and coach Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys from from that era already in Canton.

“I felt like I was a Hall of Fame player when my career was over,” Woodson said in that profile. “I felt like I had done enough. But it didn’t bother me as much. As I’ve aged and gotten older, it chaps my ass. It really does. I felt like I played with guys that are Hall of Famers, and I played at the same level, if not even better… I do feel like I left something that’s Hall of Fame-worthy.”

It will apparently take a while longer for Hall of Fame voters to come around and see that, too.


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