Ickey Woods stole the show in 1988. As a rookie in the NFL, Woods started just 10 games at running back for the Cincinnati Bengals but made the most of them. He rushed for 15 touchdowns and guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl while becoming a national icon with his “Ickey Shuffle.”
With his former team back in the big game, Woods has returned to the spotlight. He’s been shown all over television and made his rounds through the talk-radio circuit. Recently, he discussed his Super Bowl season and the big key that got the Bengals there.
Ickey Woods was a rock star with the Bengals as a rookie in 1988
Although the Bengals drafted Woods in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft, they didn’t expect his breakout season. As a rookie, Woods became a major ingredient in the Bengals’ high-powered offensive attack, led by quarterback Boomer Esiason.
Esiason was named the NFL MVP in ’88 after throwing for 28 touchdown passes and leading the Bengals to a 12-4 record. Although it was Esiason who got much of the well-deserved credit, it was Woods who stole the show.
The 6-foot-2, 231-pound running back averaged a league-leading 5.3 yards per carry and racked up 1,066 yards to go along with his 15 scores. He became everyone’s favorite back with his Ickey Shuffle, a dance he crafted every time he reached the end zone.
Woods helped keep the Bengals offense balanced. His success led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl appearance in the ’80s — both against the San Francisco 49ers. Like they did in their first meeting, the Bengals came up short in Super Bowl 23, falling 20-16. Woods was the game’s leading rusher with 79 yards.
Ickey Woods described the difference between his Bengals and the Bengals of today
Woods was a recent guest on Doug Flutie’s Flutie Flakescast podcast and took a stroll down memory lane. He reminisced about his Ickey Shuffle, but he also talked about the difference between Cincinnati’s run to the Super Bowl in 1988 to this year’s.
That difference could bode well for today’s Bengals.
“Well. Doug, when we did it, we were the number one seed in the AFC,” Woods told Flutie. “Everybody had to come to the Jungle. That year, we didn’t lose a game at home, so we were real confident if we got to play at home.
“You got your fans there, Doug, and you’re rockin’ and rollin’. Just the atmosphere alone, you knew there was no chance nobody’s gonna come in here and beat us. It was the atmosphere. The crowd kept us pumped up, and you know when you get into those situations where you need the crowd to get into it, and I get a chance to score a touchdown and run to the sideline and do the Ickey Shuffle. The place was just rockin’ and roarin’.”
Outside of their first playoff game against the Las Vegas Raiders this year, the Bengals have been on the road. They knocked off the top two teams. Unlike Woods’ team, these Bengals have shown they can win in enemy territory. They’ll even have to do it in the Super Bowl, which will be played in the Rams’ backyard.
Woods remembers being told by the NFL he couldn’t do the Ickey Shuffle in the end zone
Toward the end of Woods’ rookie season, the NFL did what the NFL has been known to do — ruin a good party. He recalled being told not to do the Ickey Shuffle on the field. Instead, he bolted over to the sideline and did it there.
“Maybe the second to the last game of the year, they said I couldn’t do it on the field anymore, so I just took it over to the sideline,” Woods said. ‘”It still got the crowd rockin.’
“You know, (kicker) Jim Breech came up to me. He said, ‘Ickey, do me a favor, man. Can you wait until after I kick the PAT before you go over there and do your shuffle? It’s way too loud and I can concentrate.’
“Man we had so much fun. Doug, it was so much fun to have the city rockin’.”
The city is rockin’ once again, and Ickey will be right there taking it all in.