He may be the most mysterious player on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster. A player who bounced around two Division Two schools. One who had just eleven catches his senior year. One reception in training camp, limited by a shoulder injury. Whose claim onto the roster was in part, due to a recommendation.
But wide receiver C.J. Goodwin may wind up as one of Latrobe’s biggest sleepers.
A quick search of his name leads to his NFL Draft profile, listing him as a Rutgers transfer. Dig a little deeper and you fail to find any other mention of him as a Scarlet Knight.
Sticking to the facts, we do know Goodwin was a multi-sport star at Linsly High School, a tiny private school in West Virginia. He played basketball, was part of the long jump and 4×100 relay in track and field, and right before his senior year, decided to give football a shot. His reason?
“Just because I thought I’d never get the chance to play again,” he told The Wheeling News Register almost a year ago.
And originally, that prediction appeared to come true. Basketball seemed to be his love, and he was good at it, a second-team all-conference selection his junior year and first team his senior. His first collegiate stop landed him at local Bethany College in the hopes of playing on the hardwood.
For reasons unclear, it didn’t work out, and he never played.
Transferring to Fairmont State, less than 90 miles away, he became a regular student. Until shortly before his senior year when an intramural basketball game against the school’s football staff got him noticed.
On the advice of friend and future teammate, Dewey McDonald, now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Goodwin gave football another chance.
Despite not playing football in three years and having only one year of experience under him, he finished the season with an impressive 440 yards and four touchdowns.
After graduating at Fairmont, he followed his football coach and McDonald, to California University of Pennsylvania, another D2 school outside of Pittsburgh.
Goodwin will admit he didn’t research his selection so thoroughly and wound up seeing limited playing time, catching just 11 passes the entire season.
Though the production was scarce, his dream wasn’t over. He got an invite to the Super Regional Combine in Detroit, posting impressive numbers. A 4.41 40 with a 40 inch vertical and 10’10” in the broad.
It’s grainy but footage of the workout actually exists. It’s about the most complete football tape anyone has of him.
He also enlisted the help of Mel Blount. The two had an existing relationship. Goodwin did some work for him on Blount’s farm and the Hall of Famers sons attended Linsly with Goodwin. Blount obliged, getting him a tryout with the Steelers.
Even with the perfect recommendation letter, that charity only goes so far. Goodwin did the rest, the little-known receiver earning a contract with the Steelers. Pittsburgh wasn’t his only offer. Right after he signed, the New York Giants came calling. But it was off to the Steel City.
As you’d expect, his training camp reps were limited. An injured shoulder kept him out, a deathblow for most players. But even on the play he got hurt, to steal the line from Chris Berman, I remember because I was there, Goodwin showed impressive hops.
The athleticism, figuratively, jumps out at you. And it was enough to convince the team to let him grow and develop for an entire season, surviving the roster spot shuffle some practice squanders become accustomed to.
In an article with The Daily Times earlier this month, Mike Tomlin had a simple message for Goodwin.
It’s fair to assume that’s not the first nor last pep talk Tomlin has given a young, hungry player. And Goodwin is still a long shot. Someone who needs to play their way onto the roster.
But he’s a terrific athlete. A young kid with inconsistent football experience. A promising lump of clay to mold. And if he really wasn’t cut out for the NFL, chances are strong he would have been exposed by now.
He’s still on a roster. He’s still fighting. And come training camp, he may make his name known to a lot more people.