NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Great teams are comprised of not only great talent, but also great teammates. Notre Dame fans have already witnessed this season how Tommy Rees, who lost his job as starting quarterback after last season, has put his own interests aside for the good of his team. There are plenty more like Rees on this year’s Irish roster, and John Goodman is one of them.
“(He is) a good teammate,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of Goodman this week. “You have to have good teammates. (The) guy is great in the locker room. (He is) an upbeat, positive guy (who) guys really enjoy being around. He’s a good teammate.”
Goodman was a highly recruited receiver out of Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger High School back in his senior season of 2007. He sat out for all of his 2008 freshman season and then applied for and received a fifth year of eligibility after a 2011 campaign that saw him catch just seven passes for 65 yards while also seeing duty as Notre Dame’s punt returner.
The punt return duties are gone this year after just eight returns for a net of five yards last year, but Goodman has made the most of his 2012 playing time for the unbeaten Irish. He has not had as much playing time as he may have initially envisioned in his fifth season at Notre Dame, but he has no regrets either.
“It’s not about me it’s about the team,” Goodman said while swarmed by media after Wednesday’s practice. “To be 10-0…it gets no better than that. The atmosphere around here is just so much better than I’ve seen it before. Really, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
“When all these guys are happy and the coaches are happy and the program’s happy then you’re happy. Whatever I can do to help the team it doesn’t matter. That’s the mindset with every guy on the team and that’s why we’ve stayed so close knit and that’s why we’ve been winning games. Even at the end when it’s crunch time. That’s what makes it special.”
Part of what has limited Goodman’s time this season has been injury. He received an injection in his back last month and has made just one start while missing three games.
“My body hasn’t held up too well and that’s unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world,” Goodman said. “I fought through those injuries. I had a back (injury) there for a while, but that’s fine now. I like to be able to back my guys up and I don’t complain about it. If I’m injured I’m injured. Whatever I can do to help the team.”
Besides injury, the other thing that has kept Goodman from seeing more time this season has been the emergence of the talented and speedy sophomore Chris Brown and (redshirt) sophomore DaVaris Daniels. The former has just one catch for 50 yards, but has an ability to stretch the field, while the latter has speed as well and turned into Notre Dame’s fourth-leading receiver with 25 catches for 375 yards before himself going down to injury last week.
Daniels’ absence now means more opportunity for Goodman.
“It is unfortunate to see him go down – to see anybody go down, but we’ve seen this before and we’ve seen guys step up,” Goodman said of the team’s next man in mentality. “That’s basically the mindset is to step into that position and basically just take it over. That’s been the theme for us the whole year. When guys go down other guys come in. That’s why we are 10-0 right now. It’s been working out. I’m very sorry for DeVaris, but somebody’s gotta step in and play that role.”
With Daniels out, Goodman is among a group of receivers who should see their playing time expanded in the last two games of the regular season. Daniel Smith, who has also had his share of injuries, T.J. Jones and Brown are the other players Kelly listed this week who will all play bigger roles in the offense in Daniels’ absence.
Goodman has just four receptions for 77 yards this season, but two of those grabs have been touchdown passes from Everett Golson. The first one was a 36-yard connection in ND’s 20-3 win at Michigan State back in September. Golson had rolled to his right on the play before spotting Goodman open down field back to his left. The second came on an 18-yard play last week at Boston College.
“Again it was a back side play,” Goodman recalled of the touchdown. “He rolled out right and that kind of took the defense over there. I was basically one-on-one backside and I just took a couple steps like I was gonna rollout with Everett and run to his side. I saw his eyes come back at me, so I stopped and my guy kept running. I was lucky enough and stayed wide open. The ball felt like it was in the air forever. It was like those old days when I was back there catching punts.”
Goodman no longer waits for those punts to come down and he does not do much passing like he did when he quarterbacked his high school team to the state semifinals as a senior. He does, however, list his 32-yard touchdown pass to former teammate Michael Floyd as one of his personal career highlights. The other top moments he will remember have more to do with his team. They include this year’s overtime wins over Stanford and Pittsburgh.
Team goals will also be on Goodman’s mind when senior day roles around this Saturday. He says neither senior day nor thoughts of what bowl the Irish might ultimately land in later this season will be on his mind when the Irish face Wake Forest.
“We still have two games left and that’s what we’re focusing on right now,” Goodman said. “It’s senior night and a lot of guys are going to be playing their last game in the stadium of their lives. That’s what we’re focusing on right now and then we’ve got SC and then we’ll worry about the bowl game then. In the whole scheme of things we want to be in the national championship, but if we get to a good BCS game that would be solid too.”
Goodman’s career statistics amount to 32 receptions for 342 yards, three touchdown catches and one touchdown pass heading into the final three games of his college career, but Kelly says statistics are not what Goodman will be remembered for.
“I know that sometimes people are measured by wins and losses, but the relationships that he has on this team strengthen this group,” Kelly praised of Goodman. “I think he’ll look back and say yeah, I would like to have caught more and made more touchdowns and done all those things, but he’s going to look back on the relationships and the strength that he’s provided as a senior in this football program.”
Goodman came to Notre Dame considered by most to be one of the top-50 wide receivers in the nation as a freshman in 2008. He came to college with high expectations, but when the speed bumps came his way he adjusted and continues to help his team in what could be the ultimate ending to his five seasons with the Fighting Irish.
“Everybody comes in here thinking they’re gonna win the Heisman and four national championships,” Goodman joked.”If you’re realistic it wouldn’t be so hard, but if you think like that it’s gonna be hard. I came in and there were high expectations and I felt like that every year, but things didn’t work out.”
“When things don’t work out you can’t get down on yourself. That’s one thing with me. I didn’t get down on myself and just stuck with it and led the younger guys and helped out the team as much as I could, because that’s what I care about.”