ND receiver John Goodman gets one more shot to shine
By Mark Lazerus Sun-Times Media November 14, 2012 11:22PM
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:24PM
SOUTH BEND — John Goodman knows what everybody expected of him when he came to Notre Dame as a hotshot recruit out of Fort Wayne, a wide receiver/quarterback hybrid with armfuls of all-area, all-state, all-Midwest and even all-America accolades in tow.
That’s because he expected the same thing.
“Everybody comes in here thinking they’re going to win the Heisman and four national championships,” Goodman said. “If you were realistic about it, it wouldn’t be so hard.”
But 18-year-old high school stars don’t do realism. When you’ve always been the best player on the field, you don’t expect anything to be hard. You don’t expect to sit out your freshman year. You don’t expect to be a bit player for three years. And you don’t expect your senior year to be derailed by a nagging back injury.
No, Goodman’s career didn’t pan out the way he and everybody else thought it would. He enters the final two regular-season games of his senior season with a mere 32 catches and three touchdowns to his credit.
But he also enters those final two games with an opportunity to redeem himself a bit, a chance to reclaim some of that promise. With DaVaris Daniels sidelined until the bowl game with a broken clavicle, fate has given Goodman one last shot at the individual glory that seemed sure to elude him. And it starts this Saturday against Wake Forest on Senior Day, no less.
Goodman had been expecting to get a few token minutes as a gesture from the coaching staff. Instead, he’s a probable starter as the Irish continue to chase an undefeated season and a national championship.
“It’s unfortunate to see anybody go down, but we’ve seen this before and we’ve seen guys step up,” Goodman said. “That’s basically the mind-set — to step into the position and basically take it over.”
Of course, Goodman said that exact same quote — almost to the letter — back in training camp, when the discussion was who would take over as Notre Dame’s go-to wideout with Michael Floyd in the NFL. But a groin injury limited Goodman in camp, the emergence of Daniels and T.J. Jones cost him reps, and his back injury — which peaked against Miami at Soldier Field — all but sealed his fate.
“He really hasn’t been healthy all year,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “(But) when we ask him to go in there, he’s the center of some big plays.”
Indeed, his one-handed touchdown catch at Michigan State will be replayed for years. And when Daniels was hurt at Boston College, it took just four snaps for Goodman to get himself wide open and haul in an 18-yard touchdown reception, using his veteran savvy to break left while Everett Golson and the entire BC defense scrambled right. Throw in a 32-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd against Western Michigan as a sophomore, and Goodman’s had his share of positive memories at Notre Dame.
But Goodman long ago relinquished those lofty individual dreams, accepting his role as a backup, and as a mentor to younger players. And the memory of what the Irish are doing this year — especially considering Goodman arrived in the aftermath of the three-win 2007 debacle — more than makes up for the personal disappointments. When asked how he’ll look back on his career, Goodman pointed to something linebacker and fellow senior Manti Te’o said to the media earlier in the day: “When you’re a champion at other schools, you’re a champion. When you’re a champion at Notre Dame, you become a legend.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a star or not, people remember you,” Goodman added. “Just to be remembered, just to be on a special team that really brought Notre Dame back — that’s what I want to be a part of.”