On a team filled with standouts, linebacker Najee Goode has been a bit overshadowed this year. Once recently released all-Big East team featured 11 members of West Virginia's defense on its first-, second- and third-team rosters -- but omitted Goode.
Such oversights certainly have nothing to do with a lack of production. The former walk-on is eighth on the team in tackles with 43, and he also has three sacks, four pass break-ups and a forced fumble to his credit. With so many other talented players around, him, he doesn't always get the recognition he deserves. Whether it's Robert Sands blowing up foes with big hits, Keith Tandy grabbing interceptions, Chris Neild standing strong on the line or Bruce Irvin circling the end for a big sack, it seems as if there's someone always grabbing the spotlight. That's par for the course for Goode, and he has no problem with it.
"We're a team and a family," said Goode. "If you do what you have to do, nine times out of ten, you're going to make the play. You may get [solo] recognition for that but it's a team sport," he added. " The main thing with all of our defensive talent is that everyone is trying to get to the ball .We try to play assignment football and we have been doing a pretty good job at it. We always have stuff to improve on. It's always good that we always have people trying to get to the ball and make plays."
While he hasn't gotten a lot of recognition from the media or fans over the course of the season, there's no doubt that Goode has gotten the attention of his coaches, which is why he has been a regular starter this year.
"We had some injuries early in the season," said Goode. "I played hard through the season and tried to get better. I kept getting better each game and I made some plays that really helped out the defense and Coach Casteel liked it."
As Goode prepares to finish his third year of playing for the Mountaineers, he recognizes that he is growing into a leadership role. That will really come to fruition next year, during his final season of play, but that realization is starting to hit now, as he and his teammates prepare to honor ten defensive seniors, who will play their final home game on Saturday. Among that group will be linebackers Anthony Leonard, J.T. Thomas, and Pat Lazear. Goode credits all three of the players in helping him to make adjustments in becoming the player that he is today.
"They always tell me to keep my head up and make the play," said Goode. "J.T. [Thomas] and Anthony [Leonard] are great to play next to and Pat is too. They are all trying to get better every day and we're trying to progress as a linebacker group. We're always trying to improve with each other."
While the Mountaineer defense will be losing great talent in that trio, they will also have Goode to rely on next year.
"The coaches know who to play and they know who to trust out there," said Goode. "They even give some of the young guys chances and with us being a veteran defense Coach Stew always tells us to make sure you make this play and to set an example."
Although unnoticed by many, Goode has been doing just that all year.