All-American Playmaker

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Meineke Car Care Bowl may end up as a pick ‘em contest, meaning that not even Vegas is confident which team will emerge victorious in Charlotte. If that's the case, you can bet that West Virginia quarterback Pat White will keep a close eye on Trimane Goddard during any late-game drives.

North Carolina lost six games by seven points or less in 2007. That number was reduced to three games this fall, as the Tar Heels won four games by eight points or less. Goddard, a native of Robersonville, N.C., was instrumental in that turnaround – literally.

While college coaches are all too quick to label one of their student-athletes as a playmaker, Goddard serves as the definition. That's the very reason that the senior strong safety added Associated Press second-team All-America honors on Tuesday to his personal trophy case.

"It's something in the preseason that my high school coach and I prayed about – All-ACC, All-America and a possible future in the NFL," said Goddard, who also picked up Walter Camp second-team All-America honors, in addition to being named a first-team All-ACC selection. "We sat down and prayed about it, and he really believed in it and I believed in it, and now it's come true. It's just a blessing to have the opportunity to be on those teams."

Goddard's fourth quarter heroics this season provide more highlights than most players can produce in a career.

With North Carolina leading Boston College 31-17 in the fourth quarter, Goddard intercepted a Chris Crane pass and raced 51 yards down the left sideline to cement a Tar Heel victory. Against Notre Dame, the senior recovered a Michael Floyd fumble inside the 10-yard line with three seconds left in regulation to preserve a five-point win, and in the season finale at Duke, Goddard picked off Thaddeus Lewis at the UNC four-yard line with 15 seconds remaining.

But his most dazzling play of all is the one that started his rise to All-American status at Dolphins Stadium in Miami Gardens. Goddard had already intercepted Hurricanes quarterback Robert Marve with less than three minutes to play, but he wasn't quite done yet.

When Marve hiked the ball from the UNC 20-yard line as the game clock ticked down to triple zeros, he found Kayne Farquharson in the back-middle of the end zone – or so he thought. The wide receiver bobbled the precision dart just enough for Goddard to sneak in and rip the ball away, securing a much-needed victory for the Tar Heels one week after starting quarterback T.J. Yates went down with a broken ankle.

In all, Goddard finished the season with a team-leading seven interceptions to go along with 48 tackles. The seven picks are tied for the most in the country, and he is also tied for third all-time at UNC with 12 in his career.

But Goddard - who is the lone Tar Heel that played against Boston College in the 2004 Continental Tire Bowl - is not one to soak up the attention; he would much rather deflect the spotlight to his teammates. Ask him about his knack for making plays in crunch time and the senior will talk about the Tar Heel defense covering all of the quarterback's options, while suggesting that he just happens to be in the right spot at the right time.

That might explain one of his clutch plays, and possibly even two. But making fourth-quarter game-changing plays in 33 percent of your games played is just too much of a statistical anomaly.

"A lot of it has to do with letting it come to you," said Goddard, who suffered broken bones in both his left foot and left wrist during his five-year career at North Carolina. "You're not trying to go out and make that play. A lot of times you see people run out and try to make a play to end a game, and they get out of place and their guy makes a catch… It's more about the whole team doing their responsibilities and studying tape and recognizing what the opponents' like to do in two-minute situations, and then just executing."

Those are lessons that Goddard has passed onto his younger teammates throughout the season.

"Don't just watch film – watch film with a purpose," said Goddard, who graduated this past Sunday with a degree in Sociology. "I just tell them that the plays I make are not by accident. I've already seen them before by watching film… The thing that's going to separate you [from everyone else] is how you prepare. Everyone's good when you go out there, but it's whoever will put the most time in."

Head coach Butch Davis points to his senior safety's preparation as the starting point for his success in 2008, while also adding that Goddard's awareness on the field has piqued the interest of various NFL scouts.

"Trimane's got enormous poise and maturity," Davis said. "He's just one of those guys that always due diligent about doing the right things. I think with his performance this year – you couldn't be happier for a kid, because of the number of tough things that he's had to go through during his career… To have him go through a whole season a 100 percent healthy, you got a chance to see how many plays that he actually could make."

Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing in at 195 pounds, Goddard is not your prototypical strong safety. But he packs a punch and he embraces a challenge, no matter how difficult.

Despite earning North Carolina's 1-A Mr. Football honors at Roanoke High School, with an enrollment south of 400, and earning distinction in recruiting circles for his talents – he was featured on the cover of Inside Carolina Magazine's 2004 Recruiting Yearbook issue – Goddard had to earn the respect of his teammates at the 2003 Shrine Bowl.

On the first day of practice in early December years ago, Goddard took a handoff on a sweep and nearly juked future Michigan safety Jamar Adams out of his shoes. It was at that moment his teammates understood that the future Tar Heel "was not just another player."

Five years later, Goddard has proven that fact time and time again, finally etching his name alongside the 62 other Tar Heels that have earned All-American distinction in the program's history.

So as you watch the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl next Saturday, keep your eye on No. 31 in the North Carolina secondary, especially late in the game, because chances are that he'll be up to his old ball-hawking ways.

Inside Carolina Top Stories