He played in THE Super Bowl, and yes, he watched as a 21-3 halftime lead eroded into a 34-28 overtime defeat to New England, but C.J. Goodwin shed that sorrow as soon as he boarded the team’s charter flight out of Houston.
“Man, I played in the Super Bowl. Yeah, we lost, and I fully expect us to win it this year. But the Super Bowl? A kid from East Wheeling? I’m OK with it,” he said. “Last year is last year, and it was great for our team and for me, but it’s a new season, and I got my future in front of me.
“I’m very glad we made it there, and I’m blessed to be in the NFL. That’s how I look at it, to be honest,” Goodwin explained. “Now, this year? I expect to win it because now we know how to get there.”
He’s a 2008 graduate of The Linsly School, attended three different universities, and is now set to leave the Friendly City for the Falcons’ training camp later this month to ready himself for the second and final season in his Futures contract with Atlanta. Goodwin made the team as a special teams player but surprised his coaching staff with his skills at cornerback, and he made two huge plays against the Patriots during the first half during of the final game of the NFL season.
“I am playing this year for my future, for sure, but I like it that way,” he admitted. “I don’t feel any pressure, though, and I’m not nervous about making the team this year. I’m more focused. I know that, and I really want to see how good I can be.
“As far as staying healthy, that’s not up to me; that’s up to God,” he said. “I’ve been doing everything I can to stay healthy, but ultimately that’s up to Him. If something happens, it happens, but I pray for good health every day.”
He wants the kids in Wheeling to realize No. 29 is not a super hero.
Goodwin, in fact, worked diligently since returning to Wheeling in February to reach as many children as he could while also attending as many as three workouts per day.
“I just wanted the kids in this area to see that you can make it by starting right here. That was very important to me because I didn’t know that when I was growing up,” he explained. “I wanted them to see that I’m just a regular guy, and I wanted them to realize that regular people do make it if they work hard enough for it.
“You can make it to the NFL, the NBA, or whatever it is you want to do,” Goodwin insisted. “Dreams do come true, and I’m proof of that, and I think it was important for the kids to see that with their own eyes. That’s why I went to all of the schools that invited me to come talk with the students.”
He visited elementary and middle schools, yes, but it was during his trips to Wheeling’s three high schools when a few pupils approached him for advice.
“I know the younger kids had fun when I paid those visits, but I don’t know if they heard me. I hope they did because it was an honest message,” Goodwin said. “It was special for me, too, because I didn’t realize I had that much of an impact. All I saw were the smiles.
“Some of the older kids in the high schools did come up to me after I spoke, and they asked for some advice, and I offered what I could,” he said. “They asked me what they need to do to make their dreams come true, and I explained to them what I did. You have to work hard, and you have to believe that you have the chance.”
It’s About Mindset
He enjoys travel especially when he has the chance to visit destinations he’s only dreamed of experiencing, and during the past few months Goodwin has made trips to the Dominican Republic, New York City, the West Coast, and, this weekend, he’ll will finally cross the northern border into Canada.
But it was a trip that took him about 90 miles below the most southern point of the United States that struck him in a way he’s never felt before.
Goodwin went to Cuba.
“It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit because, well, we really weren’t allowed to go there until recently,” he said. “And it was an eye-opener; I can tell you that. It made me very, very proud to be an American because those people are held down. Those people can’t dream about anything because they’re really not allowed to.
“The government controls everything there. I heard about that my entire life but once you experience it, you don’t realize it,” he said. “The people there in Cuba are really afraid to talk about the government. I asked a few people if they dream about going to America, and they all told me that it’s something they don’t even talk about because of the trouble they could get into. It was a cool experience, but it was sad at the same time.”
And, unexpectedly, his visit to the communist country allowed him to view his hometown in a far different way. In Cuba, the 27-year-old Goodwin realized, it was the government suppressing the people. In Wheeling, however, it was a mindset supplying the self-oppression.
“But now I’m seeing a little more get-up-and-go from people, and that’s a very good thing,” Goodwin said. “I feel like people are more motivated here now to make things better. I also have seen people believe in themselves more, and I think it’s great that more kids are getting looks and earning scholarships.
“There are a lot of talented people here, but for too long no one ever believed in them, but now more people are talking about the future here instead of leaving, and that’s good to hear because that’s not how it was when I was getting close to graduation,” he said. “Back then it was about getting out, but now it seems more and more people want to stay here, be close to their families, and make it work.”
In two weeks, Goodwin will leave for the Falcons’ 50-acre training facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., a small community 45 miles away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium near downtown Atlanta. His name appears on Atlanta’s depth chart on special teams and at left corner, and Goodwin hopes to play in Super Bowl LII on his 28th birthday on Feb. 4, 2018.
“I think it’s cool to come back here and train because I get to be with my family at the same time,” he continued. “Plus, training is a heck of a lot cheaper here than it would have been down in Atlanta, and I also get to work with Curtis McGhee and Elijah Bell and a few other folks. You can’t beat that.
“It’s been a terrific offseason,” Goodwin said. “I’ve spent a lot of time here in Wheeling, and it’s been great to realize all of the love and support I receive here. People have seemed surprised that I spent most of the offseason here because they ask me why I made that decision, but this is my home, and this is where my family and friends are. No matter what happens in the future, Wheeling will always be my home.”
(Photos provided by C.J. Goodwin)