Goodson, a cornerback from Baylor who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round, gave up football during his sophomore year of high school to focus on his hoop dreams.
Goodson played point guard for West Coast powerhouse Gonzaga, starting 68 of a possible 69 games during his final two seasons. After his junior season, however, he shockingly gave up basketball to restart a football career that had been dormant for five years.
"My dad always used to tell me that if (basketball) didn't work out that I could always go back and try to play (football)," Goodson said last week. "I actually did it and it actually worked out, so it's crazy. It's crazy."
Goodson, the brother of NFL running back Mike Goodson, transferred to Baylor, gambling that his 5-foot-11 frame would be a better fit in football — all of that rust notwithstanding. He joined the team midway through summer training camp in 2011 but the road to the NFL was detoured twice. In the fifth game of the 2011 season — one week after a 42-yard kickoff return against Kansas State put him on the map — he sustained a season-ending ankle injury. In 2012, he broke his arm while covering a kickoff during the fourth game of the season.
"My first year, I was just getting my feet and stuff down, learning the plays and then I hurt my ankle, so I was out for that season. I wasn't too down on that," Goodson said. "It took a lot of hard work to get my foot back to me running and stuff, so after that I was ready and I think I was like first- or second-string going into the season. I broke my arm and then I was like, ‘Oh, my Gosh, I can't believe this happened again.' I've never been a guy to quit or think bad thoughts about anything. I just rolled with the punches. I've always been blessed, and that was it."
Goodson the person stands out as much as Goodson the football player in the mind of his collegiate position coach, Carlton Buckels. Between the injuries and his father's incarceration for mortgage fraud, Goodson has battled through more than his share of adversity.
"You know what? Meech, he doesn't really talk about his past and all the things that he's been through," Buckels said. "But you hear about it and you wonder why a guy works so hard, it's because you know where he's been and he's seen things in his life that made him a better person. He doesn't want to make the same mistakes. He's the type of guy that's going to beat all odds.
"If you tell him he can't do something, he's going to prove you wrong. He's a guy that's got a vision for himself and has set some goals for himself. Obviously, he was a very good basketball player who decided he had a better future in football. Being so athletic and gifted as he is, he was able to make that transition with no problem. All the things that he's been through, he's able to put them on the back burner and focus on the task at hand. That's one thing I always appreciated about Meech is he never complained about anything and always walked around with a smile on his face. He was the first one in meetings and he worked the hardest at practice."
Goodson's gamble paid off in 2013. Granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA due to the injuries, he started 10 of 11 games and was an honorable mention on the all-Big 12 team with three interceptions. At 5-foot-11, he didn't have much of a future in professional basketball. That height, however, makes him the ideal cornerback for the Packers; Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward are all 5-foot-11. With a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, a 37-inch vertical and the lateral agility honed during his years on the basketball court, he's got plenty of athleticism.
"This is a thing that if the light clicks on upstairs, with his athletic ability, you've got a steal," the NFL's head scout, Dave-Te' Thomas, said. "After the third round, you start looking for guys that fit your system. You look for guys that there's a spark in there. Because if there's a spark, I can start a campfire. Without it, I'm just sitting there rubbing two sticks together."
Thomas thought Goodson might be a candidate for the practice squad, where he could spend the season fine-tuning his game. From Buckels' perspective, Goodson started looking like a football player, rather than a basketball player masquerading as a football player, during his injury-shortened 2012 season.
"You could really see him start to develop and play with a lot of confidence with his technique and trying to shake the rust off, so to speak, and get acclimated back into the game," Buckels said. "It was just a matter of time because he's so athletic and so gifted, but the injuries kept him back. I think he's got a great upside and his future is bright and he's going to continue to get better."
Buckels said Goodson has "great" ball skills — he tied for the Big 12 lead with 1.45 passes defensed per game as a senior — and called him a "good fundamental tackler." Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt called Goodson "really instinctive" and "very competitive."
Given his athleticism and upside, Goodson believes he's going to be one of the steals of the draft.
Don't doubt him on that, said Buckels, who admits to having a bit of a soft spot in his heart for a former basketball player who kept fighting and pushing, no matter how many people told him he was "crazy."
"Of course, of course, and not just because he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers," Buckels said. "It's because he made a transition and he committed to it and he gave me his all and he gave Baylor his all. He wasn't the type of guy who was waiting for something to happen; he'd go make something happen. All those things I mentioned earlier — he put all that stuff behind him and he graduated, he worked hard, he competed. It wasn't given to him. He went out and earned it, and that's why I'm so happy for him."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.