Notre Dame's Johnny 'Football-Sub': It's Hard to Keep a 'Goodman' Down

By Tom O'Toole

Everyone on this team has bought in to what Coach (Brian) Kelly is teaching us…The level of camaraderie is like nothing we have had before. We’re confident as a team and understanding the importance of playing together. –Notre Dame wide receiver John Goodman

Notre Dame‘s home game against Wake Forest is Senior Day for the Irish, and perhaps no one appreciates this opportunity more than fifth-year senior John Goodman. For while Irish standouts Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert returned for their senior seasons at Notre Dame with a chance to enhance their NFL draft status, Goodman returned for another year just hoping for a chance to start. And even that dream was shattered…until this week…

A former high school quarterback, the Fort Wayne, Ind., native was recruited out of Bishop Dwenger High School by former head coach Charlie Weis.  Coming to play for the Irish was an easy sell for Goodman, who grew up following and loving the school’s fabled football program.

“Actually, I was a [Notre Dame] fan my whole life,” Goodman says. “I…passed up all the other offers I got and took this [offer] right away when it was made.”

Never a star and rarely a starter at Notre Dame, Goodman nevertheless has had an interesting and varied career under the Dome. Thus far, he has caught 32 passes, returned nearly the same amount of punts, has run the ball from the “Wildcat” formation and has thrown a 32-yard option pass for a touchdown to former Irish All-American Michael Floyd.

But as the Notre Dame 2012 press guide explains, Goodman clearly came back this year because he was “approved for fifth season of eligibility by Faculty Board on Athletics since he did not play as a rookie in 2008 [and] enters 2012 in competition to replace Floyd as a starting wide receiver.”

With Floyd gone, Goodman finally figured to have his season in the South Bend sun—only to be beaten out for the starting spot by the swifter, more elusive red shirt freshman Davaris Daniels.

With only four catches thus far this season, one would think Goodman would be bitter about his limited playing time during this undefeated season, but nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, Goodman says he couldn’t be more content with his role. As one of a handful of veterans on the team, he takes great pride in mentoring the next generation of Notre Dame receivers.

“Over the summer I tried to work with all those guys as much as possible,” Goodman explained. “This year’s freshman class is really a great one, and I think they have a lot of potential, especially the receivers. These younger guys are only going to get better and they’re going to do some big things for us. In a couple of years when I am watching them, it will be fun to say that I worked with them and helped them get their start.”

In essence, Goodman did his tutoring job too well, for Daniels took Goodman’s starting job this season rather than next. Still, Goodman’s play this year has been far from futile. Although he has made only four catches, Goodman has made the most of them, with two going for crucial first downs (including an amazing sideline dive that kept the game-winning drive against Purdue alive) and the other two for touchdowns, both last week against Boston College and a wonderful, one-handed 36-yard TD grab against Michigan State.

But fate may have finally intervened for Goodman, for with Daniels out for the next several weeks with a broken clavicle, Goodman is the odds-on favorite to start against both Wake Forest and archrival USC. But whether he is the star of the game or merely the author of another singular spectacular play, Goodman plans to treat both fame and anonymity the same.

Starting or coming off the bench “is really just a mindset,” Goodman says. “You just have to have a positive approach to everything and a good frame of mind.”

After Notre Dame’s dream season is over, Goodman has in mind yet another dream, to “catch on” with an NFL team. And “what though the odds be great,” I hope some pro coach will at least give him a chance. For as his Irish teammates will attest, whether on the field or bench, John Goodman is a “good man” to have around.

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