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August 8, 2012
When it came right down to it, John Goodman didn’t want to leave.
The only question left was whether they would make him leave.
“I just didn’t know,” said Goodman, the wide receiver from Fort Wayne, Ind., of awaiting a decision from Notre Dame regarding a fifth year of eligibility. “I was asking around to the coaches and it was nerve-wracking because I didn’t know whether I was going to get it or not.
“Towards the end of the second half of the season, it was what am I going to do with my life if I don’t get this fifth year? Either I get a full year of college or I’m straight into the real world, and that would have been a helluva change from college football.”
Goodman eventually was granted his coveted fifth year, and now, he’s trying to make the most of it at the W position, long dominated by one Mr. Michael Floyd. Less than a week into the pre-season, it’s still Goodman’s job to lose as he tries to hold off junior Daniel Smith.
“I see it as a great opportunity and something I need to take advantage of,” Goodman said. “I need to go out and just take the position and make sure it’s mine and not even let there be any competition for it. Kind of like Mike last year and the year before, how he went out and kept that position and dominated on the field.
“That’s what’s in my head right now, dominating in practice for the next 29 days and then going against Navy and doing the same thing and beating them even worse than these DBs. You’ve got to have that confidence and I think that’s something I can do. Everybody thinks that, but it depends on who does it every single day.”
Goodman’s exudes certitude for a guy whose career has seen few peaks and plenty of valleys in his four years at Notre Dame. His 64-yard touchdown reception in mop-up duty against Washington State in San Antonio during his red-shirt freshman season still serves as the pinnacle of his career with nothing a close second (although he did complete a 32-yard pass against Western Michigan in 2010).
Since then, he’s caught 22 passes over the previous two seasons combined, including just seven for 65 yards in 2011. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since that Halloween weekend in San Antonio in 2009.
After returning five punts for an 11.2-yard average in ’09, Goodman is better known for his fair catches than his lengthy returns. In the last two seasons, he’s returned 21 punts for 22 yards with a long of 13 in both 2010 and 2011.
Goodman talks, however, like a guy who is ready to explode.
“I’m definitely more confident and comfortable,” said Goodman, who enters the season with 28 career receptions for 315 yards and that lone touchdown against the Cougars.
“I feel really good right now. My body feels good and my mind feels good. I just need to keep going every single day. If I talk to you 10 days from now, I hope to be in the same situation.”
But regardless what happens on the field this fall, where he could find himself competing with a freshman, Chris Brown, for playing time, Goodman will savor his final opportunity to represent Notre Dame in a football uniform.
Few Irish players are as appreciative of the opportunity Notre Dame affords, both on and off the field.
“Just because these guys and coaches are really important to me,” said Goodman when asked why he wanted to return for a fifth year. “We haven’t really accomplished anything yet, especially me as an individual. I just want to get better. I totally believe I can have a good season this year.
“I didn’t want to go out on the streets when I knew I had the ability to do something special. I definitely want to leave my mark, and I felt like I had the chance and ability to do that. It’s really special to me and something I won’t take for granted.”
Had he not been granted a fifth year of eligibility, Goodman said he would not have sought another school to play football, as is so common today through the generosity of the NCAA.
“No, probably not. I’m all Notre Dame,” Goodman said. “I grew up Notre Dame. I committed here for a reason. I wouldn’t want to switch to anywhere else. I want to graduate from here and stay here as long as possible, and if I hadn’t gotten (the fifth year), I probably would have ended football.”
But Goodman has a new lease on his football life. Floyd is gone. Daniel Smith has a negligible amount of playing time under his belt, none of which is at wide receiver. Goodman is bursting at the seams in anticipation of the opportunity he has before him. He took a major first step in the spring when he was awarded the most improved offensive player award.
“That’s something I wanted to do in the spring,” Goodman said. “A lot of guys who have been starting, they don’t dog it, but they don’t go all out. In spring ball, I felt like I needed to win a position and that’s what I went out and did. I felt like that every single day until I rolled the ankle.
“But that was my goal in spring ball and I felt like I proved that, and now in camp, I’ve got to keep proving it until the first game, and then it goes game by game by game. I can’t get too cocky or get ahead of myself.”
Simply put, if Goodman catches the football, he’ll likely remain in the starting lineup. Goodman himself has admitted in the past that the only thing preventing him from getting more reps was his inability to consistently latch on to the football.
There’s also punt return duties, which remains up in the air early in camp. After the Irish averaged just 3.7 yards per return last year, Brian Kelly is looking for an upgrade. Goodman still believes he can be the guy
“Things have changed and there are others guys back there practicing it,” Goodman said. “As of right now, I’m still doing some punt returns. I don’t know who’s going to start, but I’m back there practicing returning.”
And he’s back at his beloved Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame means everything to me,” Goodman said. “I walk around campus and it makes me think about what I have surrounding me. This is a really special group of guys, and I would have missed out on something great if I didn’t get that fifth year.
“Football is one thing and school is another. Football is what we do, it’s not who we are. I learned that from Dayne (Crist), and that’s something I take to heart. It’s just so special and I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
Unless, of course, that somewhere else is the end zone.
“I do think back to that because that was my only receiving touchdown,” smiled Goodman, reflecting on that 64-yard scoring grab from Crist back in 2009. “It’s something I hope to get back to more this year. That was fun.”
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