High School Sports

Lower Richland grad hopes to be school's 3rd to win ring

Super Bowl XLIV

Jonathan Goodwin has spent much of his football career playing in the shadows of his older brother and a famous ex-teammate at Lower Richland High.

But Goodwin will step into the spotlight today when the eight-year NFL veteran makes his first Super Bowl appearance as the starting center for the New Orleans Saints.

Goodwin, who lives in Irmo during the off-season, will try to keep the Indianapolis Colts' pass rushers off quarterback Drew Brees and help deliver a championship to a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina five years ago.

If the Saints win, Goodwin will have a Super Bowl ring to match those worn by his brother Harold Goodwin, who won his ring last year as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff, and former Lower Richland star Richard Seymour, who collected three rings as a defensive end with the New England Patriots.

It would mark the pinnacle of a long journey for the 31-year-old Goodwin, who battled injuries in high school, switched schools in college and played six NFL seasons before becoming a full-time starter.

"We all coach in this league and play in this league to get to the Super Bowl," said Harold Goodwin, one of 20 family members who will be in Miami's Sun Life Stadium for today's game.

Getting there is becoming a Goodwin family habit.

This is third time in the past four years there has been a Goodwin in the Super Bowl. Harold Goodwin coached in the 2007 game with Chicago after the Bears knocked off his brother's Saints' squad in the NFC Championship Game.

Though the Bears fell to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl, Harold Goodwin returned last year when the Steelers knocked off Arizona. Goodwin, an assistant offensive line coach for Pittsburgh, offered to give his brother an extra incentive two weeks ago when the Saints were preparing to face Minnesota.

"I can show you what the winner ring and the loser ring look like," said Harold Goodwin, whose championship ring features 61 diamonds and appraises at $24,000. "He said, 'Nah, I think we've got it.'"

'SORT OF ... LOST IN SEYMOUR'S SHADOW'

Jonathan Goodwin remembers tagging along with his brother, who is five years older, to Caughman Road Park, about three miles from their home. The two played basketball and baseball; their mother, Joyce Goodwin, coached in a coed basketball league one winter.

Despite their big size, the brothers did not go out for football until they were in high school. It did not take them long to develop.

Harold Goodwin was a highly touted lineman who went to Michigan on scholarship in 1992, about the time his brother was beginning to show an interest in the sport.

"I always thought I was a better athlete, of course," Jonathan Goodwin said, laughing. "So I thought if Harold was so good at football, then maybe I could be also."

Jonathan Goodwin played on Lower Richland's B team as a freshman, and sprained a knee ligament as a sophomore - an injury he aggravated his final two years with the Diamonds. When healthy, Goodwin would hold his own against Seymour in one-on-one drills.

"When him and Richard went against each other, it stopped practice," former LR coach David Moore said.

Despite having two future NFL players, the Diamonds won only a handful of games in 1996 when Seymour and Goodwin were seniors. That did not stop the college recruiters from pouring into the school after the 6-foot, 6-inch Seymour turned heads at the Shrine Bowl.

Two days after the game, Moore said "it looked like a doctor's office" in the LR hallway, with former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and other coaches lined up to see Seymour. Moore said he tried to get the coaches from the major schools to look at the 6-foot, 4-inch Goodwin, but he sort of got lost in Seymour's shadow.

"All the press and everything went with Seymour, really because of two inches," said Moore, now defensive coordinator at Andrew Jackson High in Lancaster County.

Goodwin signed with Ohio University, and started as a freshman for the Mid-American Conference school, coached by Jim Grobe, now at Wake Forest. By January of his freshman year, Goodwin was ready to transfer.

"I made some great friends there. But, in the back of my mind, I always felt like I could play at a bigger level, and it still was a dream of mine," Goodwin said. "We ran the triple option (at Ohio), so it was fun.

"But it still wasn't the type of offense that, as an offensive lineman, was really going to get you a shot at the next level."

Harold Goodwin, who became a graduate assistant at Michigan after a knee injury ended his playing career, gave Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr a game film of his brother to watch. Carr was sold, and the brothers were reunited in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Though Harold Goodwin accepted his first full-time coaching position at nearby Eastern Michigan before his brother enrolled at Michigan, the two lived in the same apartment complex for a year.

After sitting out the 1998 season under NCAA transfer rules, Goodwin started 20 of 29 career games for the Wolverines, making All-Big Ten as a senior. After the New York Jets drafted Goodwin in the fifth round of the 2002 draft, he spent four seasons with the Jets, primarily as a special teams player.

New York offensive line coach Doug Marrone switched Goodwin from guard to center his third year with the Jets, a move that Goodwin says turned his career around.

"It seemed like I struggled with pass blocking at guard," he said. "When I got to center, guys had to line up on me tighter and I developed more hand speed."

'A PRETTY BIG DEAL'

When Marrone, now Syracuse's head coach, left to join the Saints' staff, he wanted to take Goodwin with him as a free agent. Goodwin was not sure what to expect when he visited New Orleans in the spring of 2006, less than a year after Katrina hit.

"I couldn't even believe there was still a team in New Orleans because from what I saw on TV. I thought it was gone," he said. "When I first got down there, in certain places, you could see the flood line on buildings. You'd see a brown line on buildings, eight feet off the ground."

His first year in New Orleans, Goodwin would go out for a burger or to buy groceries in the evening and find many of the restaurants and stores closed. They did not have enough staffing to stay open past 6 p.m.

Goodwin became the Saints' starting center in 2008, directing an offensive line that has been among the NFL leaders the past two seasons in fewest sacks allowed. Goodwin earned his first Pro Bowl invitation this year when Dallas center Andre Gurode pulled out of the game with an injury.

Goodwin, along with the other Saints' and Colts' players selected for the Pro Bowl, could not take part because the NFL played the game a week before the Super Bowl, a move widely criticized.

Moore, who stays in touch with Goodwin, said his former player has not been spoiled by success. Moore said Goodwin, who is married with two young sons, still says, "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" when speaking to him.

When Moore was coaching at Lakewood, Goodwin sent him a box of gloves to give to the team's offensive linemen.

"It was an instant Jonathan Goodwin fan club," Moore said.

The club figures to grow if the Saints win today.

A New Orleans' victory would make Goodwin the fourth Lower Richland graduate to win a Super Bowl ring as either a player or coach. (Receiver David Patten was a teammate of Seymour's on the Patriots' three championship teams.)

"I don't know how many other high schools in the country can say that," Harold Goodwin said. I'm sure there are one or two.

"(But) it's a pretty big deal."

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