Two years ago, Trimane Goddard met a man who needed help. He had severe, untreated mental illness. He was experiencing hallucinations and delusions. He had been living on the streets or in shelters but refused treatment when he was brought into the Washington, D.C. clinic where Goddard worked as a crisis counselor.
Goddard did what he does when most people enter a room. He started talking. In social work it’s called building a rapport but it comes naturally to the former All-American North Carolina cornerback. A few minutes in he got a smile. A little later, he saw an opening. He offered food. The man accepted. He stayed several hours, eventually completing intake and entering the program.
The ensuing weeks and months were much more complicated than that first conversation. They involved counselors, nurses, psychiatrists, clinicians, and lots of hard work, but it started with Goddard and ended in successful completion of treatment.
“It was a joy to witness,” Goddard says. “It’s rewarding to see a person come to your door Day 1, in need of a lot of help, and allow themselves to be vulnerable and have someone else help guide them.”
Nowadays, Goddard’s schedule is full, but only for a few more weeks. He works full time as a Program Manager for So Others Might Eat, the same non-profit he worked for as a crisis counselor, where he manages seven staff members and as many as 23 clients. In the evenings, he takes graduate classes at Howard University and will finish his masters in social work in December. He also recently got engaged.
“The schedule for football (at Carolina) was really rigorous,” Goddard says. “My schedule now is probably even more rigorous than it was then.”
Goddard was drawn to social work due in part to his upbringing. Growing up in a poor part of eastern North Carolina, he saw people suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. When he closed the book on his football career, he shifted his focus to helping people like those he saw growing up.
“I’ve never been in recovery so I can’t say I know what you’re going through but I can sympathize with some of the struggles you’re experiencing, validating your feelings and not minimizing them,” Goddard says.
Goddard played at Carolina during a time of transition. He was recruited by John Bunting and played his last game for Butch Davis, but was a steadying force in the program. He was First-Team All-ACC and Second-Team All-America in 2008, leading the NCAA in interceptions with seven picks.
He has plenty of memories to go with those accolades: his four interceptions in three games against Miami, Connor Barth’s kick against Miami, Khalif Mitchell stopping T.A. McClendon, his senior day interception against Duke, and his first visit to campus with his family and high school coach after he signed with Carolina.
But with two full-time gigs, Goddard doesn’t have much time for football right now. He studies all weekend and gets exercise playing in a national adult kickball league -- he was the nationwide MVP the last two years as a pitcher. He only allows himself to watch Carolina games during football season.
Goddard says he misses the Xs and Os of football more than playing, so breaking down the defense, especially Des Lawrence and M.J. Stewart whom he admires, has been fun. He credits defensive coordinator Gene Chizik’s focus on winning individual matchups as the catalyst for this year’s improvement. He said the approach breeds trust, something he thought was missing last year.
“You see the focus and how the team lifts each other up,” Goddard says. “You kind of see that zone where it doesn’t matter who’s in front of you, they’re roadkill.”
Goddard hasn’t been back to Chapel Hill since 2011 and has only kept up with a select number of former teammates, notably Mark Paschal and Garrett Reynolds, but hopes to make it to the ACC championship game to reconnect.
“I really would go like to see the team, especially after all the hard work they’ve put in the last few years and what Fedora has done to finally get the program buzzing,” Goddard says. “It would be a great sight to see the Tar Heels win the ACC championship in Bank of America.”