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DRIVE DISPLAYS GOODMAN'S BEST

The FSU receiver, after ups and downs, was pivotal Saturday.

With his team trailing Division I-AA Jacksonville State last weekend in the waning minutes and desperately in need of someone stepping up and making a play, Florida State receiver Richard Goodman matter-of-factly announced his intentions to his quarterback.

"I'm going to win the game for us," he told Christian Ponder.

Such talk, especially at the most critical times, easily can be construed as being cocky or starry-eyed or even being a bit greedy a la Terrell Owens. But not from this guy.

"It was my passion," said the fifth-year senior.

Goodman then backed those heartfelt words with heart-stopping actions, catching four passes for 41 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown that helped the Seminoles escape 19-9and avoid the kind of loss that can spoil a season.

"I feel like everyone says that (kind of thing)," Ponder said, "but he did it. He won the game."

After years of injuries and off-the-field issues, including a criminal charge that threatened to end his career this year, Goodman's love of the game, mental and physical toughness, and skills have been on full display for the Seminoles (1-1), who play Saturday night at No. 7 BYU.

Ponder calls him his "go-to" guy and Goodman not only leads FSU with 13 receptions for 162 yards, he leads the ACC in catches per game (6.5). He started the season with a grand total of 27 catches for 247 yards.

"He's really stepped up," Ponder said. "Seeing how he sacrifices everything, how he's willing to put himself out there to make a play for this team, that really shows how much he cares. ... It's what I've been expecting."

But time waits for no one. It has no compassion.

Goodman can tell you that.

The former Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas standout looked to be on the verge of breakout as a junior in 2007, but in the eighth game against Duke, in which he was having his best performance (11 catches, 73 yards), he fractured his right fibula and was done for the year. He then sat out last season.

Goodman, 21, was named one of the team's leadership award winners after the spring. But in May, police arrested him and charged him with throwing a chair that severely injured a female student - a felony - during a brawl between members of the football team and a fraternity.

"It was one of the worst things I've been through in my life," Goodman said. "It's one thing when you make mistake, everybody's entitled to make a mistake in life, but when it's something you clearly had nothing to do with, it really hurts you inside. It really took a toll on me."

Through it all, however, he maintained his belief that it would work out - the State Attorney's Office eventually dropped the charge due to conflicting witness statements.

"I have some people who pray for me and keep me looking at the big picture," he said. "And the big picture is I'm at Florida State for a reason and I just have to make the best of the opportunity when it comes."

The 6-foot, 191-pound Goodman earned a starting spot for the opener against Miami and responded with five catches for a team-high 82 yards. Ponder wanted to go to him on the final play, but the Hurricanes covered him (as well as the second read on the play, Taiwan Easterling), forcing Ponder to look to Jarmon Fortson, who was open but couldn't come up with the pass as the Hurricanes held on for a 38-34 win.

The last drive against Jacksonville State was different.

Goodman saw to that.

"What I'm hoping is the young guys can see a guy having success and why he's having success," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "It's because he's preparing to have success. I'm tickled to death it's happening. You like to see guys rewarded who do the right things."

"If I had another career that I could make money and keep a roof over my head and football was a game you played for free, I would play it for free because I love this game so much," Goodman added. "I love everything about it."

Talk about passion.

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

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