Charles Woodson chased perfection for 18 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers (truly remarkable in light of the punishing position he played: defensive back). He was a key player in the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning season in 2010.
Since retiring from the NFL in 2016, Woodson has embarked on a new career in an equally competitive arena: winemaking. His label, Intercept Wines, is produced in California’s Paso Robles region, where he spent time each summer at the Raiders’ training camp.
We caught up with Woodson to find out how he made the transition from NFL superstar to small business owner.
What have been the biggest challenges for you in making a career transition?
Woodson: I had to learn a lot about the wine industry from a different perspective. I am very passionate about wine, but you don’t necessarily know as a consumer about all the aspects that go into crafting delicious wine.
When you watch a game on Sunday, you just see the final output — but maybe not all the extensive time and work put in the week before by the players. It’s the same with wine … you get to enjoy the final product, but don’t necessarily see all the work that went into it, the weather, the terroir [soil and terrain], the blending, and everything else that affects that bottle. There are many pitfalls that can get in your way and potentially spoil everything!
What skills did you learn in the NFL that applied to your business?
Woodson: I approach wine just like athletics — you can bruise your hip, or dislocate your shoulder, but you’ve still got to pull through on Sundays; you’ve still got to deliver world-class wines each vintage. … All the physical and mental grinding of preparing for a new football season has greatly helped me get ready for each harvest.
Retired NFL stars often say what they miss most is the camaraderie with their teammates. Have you found similar team spirit in business?
Woodson: I value teamwork and bringing people of varying expertise together. … One key teammate is the Intercept winemaker, Amanda Gorter, who is amazing and an expert.
What advice would you give to others starting their own business?
Woodson: Talk to those who have come before you, always be ready to learn, and spend time building your skills and knowledge base as you start your own business. … It is hard work, but that is not something that deters me after spending 18 years in the NFL.