SOUTH BEND — When the dream started to unravel and John Goodman felt
that reality of a numbers game stalking him, the Notre Dame wide
receiver never allowed himself to consider a football Plan B.
Goodman’s own numbers — playing time and statistics — were ebbing last
season in what seemed to be trending as his last in an ND uniform. All
the while, Irish head football coach Brian Kelly appeared to be
building a recruiting class so large that the list of players invited
back for a fifth year would be small and exclusive enough to push
Goodman off the roster.
That would have opened a trap door for Goodman to finish at another
school, as tight end Mike Ragone (Kansas) and nose guard Brandon
Newman (Ball State), and perhaps others, will do.
“I’m a Notre Dame guy,” Goodman said Wednesday. “I wouldn’t have gone
anywhere else. I just wouldn’t love it anywhere else.
“I love it here and I love the game here. I grew up a Notre Dame fan,
and I just wouldn’t be able to do it at any other school. So I guess
I’d be going into the work world, like you guys.”
But in the limbo weeks between the Dec. 29 finale with Florida State
in the Champs Sports Bowl and Kelly’s decision in late January to
bring Goodman back, football started to love the Fort Wayne (Ind.)
Bishop Dwenger product back.
And this spring, he has been a staple in the first-team offense, a
strong voice in the locker room and an inspiration to younger players
who have been force-fed patience.
“Really, from a wide receiver position, he’s been our go-to guy,”
Kelly said. “He has stepped up his game considerably. He’s got a ways
to go, but I expect him to do really big things for us.”
In 2011, he did little things, and not always consistently well. The
6-foot-3, 207-pounder caught a modest seven passes for 65 yards and a
TD. To put that into perspective, ND’s leading receiver,
since-graduated Michael Floyd, amassed more catches in six different
games than Goodman did all season.
The former high school quarterback amassed five yards on eight punt
returns. More than anything, Goodman did a lot of watching and
thinking on the sidelines.
He found himself early in the season, after a hamstring injury in fall
camp set him back, obsessing about things like catching a ball over
the middle and getting cracked by a defensive back, getting moved up
and down the depth chart and past mistakes.
“It was definitely my fault last year — the playing time, the
catches,” Goodman said. “Eventually, I worked my way through it. I
think the coaches were looking at, ‘Is he going to fight through all
those little things and get through all the mental aspects of the game
that he kind of lacked before?’ And that kind of became my standpoint
Goodman kept his eye on good friend Floyd, ND’s leading receiver and a
probable first-round draft choice later this month. That consistency
and confidence exuded by Floyd changed Goodman.
His work ethic didn’t change as much as his perspective, his
confidence and his sense that nothing was going to get in his way
It started to show up in his numbers, even before spring practice
kicked off on March 21. In a mini-combine conducted by director of
football strength and conditioning Paul Longo a little more than a
month ago, Goodman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds — fastest
among ND’s wide receivers.
“It’s my job to fight back, and at the beginning of last season, I
didn’t,” Goodman said. “But eventually I did and got my opportunity.
“Now it’s a matter of realizing my days at Notre Dame are counting
down. You look up on the board, and it says, ‘Navy in 100 and whatever
days.’ And it just counts down every single day. I have less than a
year here at Notre Dame, so I’ve got to make my dreams come true.”
Notre Dame defensive end Aaron Lynch practiced with the Irish, as
expected, Wednesday — ND’s first since the sophomore-to-be was excused
from practice April 4 to attend to personal matters.
Lynch, a freshman All-American from Florida, spent Easter weekend at
his mother’s new home in Seven Hills, Ohio, before returning to campus
Monday night. Kelly, last Wednesday, quashed rumors that Lynch was
Lynch was requested by the media for a post-practice interview
Wednesday, but that request was denied. Kelly did not speak with the
media either and is not scheduled to meet again with the media until