Elbert (Ickey) Woods is not bitter, even though injuries ended
his football career prematurely, leaving him to make a living
hawking frozen foods door-to-door in Cincinnati. "One thing I
never do is ask, What if?" he says. "Things happen for a
reason." Still, few people would blame him for feeling a bit
cheated. After all, as a rookie running back for the Cincinnati
Bengals in 1988, Woods was on top of the world, thanks to his
success as a rusher and, especially, to a goofy little dance he
performed whenever he scored. Following each touchdown Woods
would turn to the crowd with his arms outstretched, hop twice to
the left, twice to the right, spike the ball and then twirl his
right index finger over his head while swiveling his hips and
howling, "Woo! Woo! Woo!"
The Ickey Shuffle sparked a nationwide craze, with Ickey songs,
Ickey shirts, Ickey commercials and even an Ickey milk shake.
But there was substance behind Woods's style. He finished the
1988 regular season with 1,066 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns and
an NFL-best 5.3 yards per carry as Cincinnati rolled to Super
Bowl XXIII. "It was a dream come true," Woods says of the
season. "I was just waiting to score and win the Super Bowl."
There would be no Ickey Shuffle in Miami that January night,
however. The San Francisco 49ers' defense held Woods to 79 yards
on 20 carries and kept him out of the end zone as the Niners won
Two games into the next season Woods tore his left anterior
cruciate ligament and was lost until October 1990. During
training camp in '91 he blew out the other knee and was
sidelined for seven games. The following May the Bengals cut
him. After having rushed for 1,525 yards and 27 touchdowns in
just 37 games, Woods was out of the NFL at age 26.
Woods says he would be in better financial shape today if he
hadn't taken poor advice from agents. With that in mind he is
planning a new careeras an agent. "Kids these days need honest
representation," Woods says. Until his company, Ovations
Management, gets off the ground, he'll continue to support his
family by selling beef, chicken and seafood for Buckeye
Foodsand occasionally pulling out the Shuffle. He'll dance,
knees willing, if it ensures a sale. "It's not demeaning," Woods
says. "It's what I made famous. With a wife and six kids, I'll
do whatever it takes to keep food on the table and clothes on my
babies' backs." There's no dancing around that logic.
by Paul Gutierrez
cover photograph by John Iacono
Issue date: December 15, 1997
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