SCI Snapshot: C.J. Goodwin

Mel Blount gave him a hand, but C.J. Goodwin got himself noticed in Pittsburgh this past spring with his athleticism.

Mike Tomlin worked his way through the Steelers' locker room as he often does, exchanging pleasantries with many of the veteran players.

As he made his way through the room, he noticed something that caught his attention.

"You're talking to C.J.," Tomlin yelled over to a reporter with mock incredulity. "C.J.?"

Rookie wide receiver C.J. Goodwin was taken aback until the reporter mentioned to him that it was a good thing Tomlin knew who he was. In fact, it was something of a surprise considering Goodwin had only signed with the Steelers a couple of weeks before, halfway through the team's OTAs.

"I guess so," said Goodwin, who played one season of college football at Fairmont State before transferring to California University of Pennsylvania last year. "That's a blessing that he even knows my name."

Perhaps Tomlin has learned Goodwin's name so quickly because he has stood out during practices. Goodwin made some acrobatic, leaping catches, showing off his excellent speed and 40-inch vertical leap. He's quickly made an impression.

"Hopefully," Goodwin said. "I just know that I have to give it my all in practice. Every day could be my last."

It's the right attitude to have for a young man who only got his tryout with the Steelers following a call from Mel Blount.

Yes, that Mel Blount.

A Wheeling native and graduate of Linsly High School, Goodwin became acquainted with Blount, a four-time Super Bowl winner and Hall of Fame cornerback for the Steelers, through Blount's sons, who also attended the small private school.

After Goodwin, who was working as a counselor at Blount's home for troubled youths, went undrafted, Blount made a phone call to the Steelers to get him a tryout.

"Mel Blount called here and told them, ‘I've got this kid, you should take a look at him. He's a good kid. I think he can play,'" Goodwin said.

According to Goodwin, the workout didn't go as well as he would have liked. He felt as if he had missed on his opportunity.

"I was surprised they called me and told me they were going to sign me for the OTAs," said Goodwin. "It was unbelievable. My mom started crying.

"This is it, right here. There's nothing bigger than this."

It's a big step for a player who had just 11 receptions in his only season at California after transferring from Fairmont State, where he also played just one season of football.

Much like the unusual way he got his tryout with the Steelers, Goodwin's start in college football was different as well.

He spent two seasons at Bethany College as a basketball player before transferring to Fairmont.

It was at Fairmont that he caught the eye of then-head football coach Mike Lopez.

"I was just a regular student playing intramural basketball and football," said Goodwin. "It was just intramural sports. The head coach of the football team was like, ‘Hey, you should come out and play.' I wasn't really sure about football. I played a little in high school. I went out and did pretty well."

He finished his only season at Fairmont with 24 receptions for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns. Included in those totals were an 83-yard touchdown reception against West Liberty and a 7-catch, 141-yard game against Shepherd. But Lopez was fired at Fairmont following that season and hired as the defensive coordinator at California.

"I went up there with him. They didn't give me a lot of playing time there, which was kind of confusing," Goodwin said. "But it's fine. Now, I'm here. It's amazing."

Lest anyone think Goodwin's only getting a shot because of his friendship with Blount, realize the 6-1, 178-pound receiver has some abilities that just can't be coached.

First and foremost is his speed. Goodwin was timed as quickly as 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

He tested well enough at California's pro day to get an invitation to the regional combine. From there, he drew an invitation to the super regional combine in Detroit in April.

After failing to hear his name called on draft weekend, Goodwin thought he was going to sign as an undrafted rookie with Tampa Bay. But that didn't work out.

"(Tampa Bay) called me one day and said they were going to bring me in," Goodwin said. "The next day they called and said nevermind."

Goodwin's speed and connection to Blount might have helped him get his foot in the door with the Steelers. But, now, it's completely up to him what he does with the opportunity.

"I've got kind of a stigma. I've got to beat that. This is Mel's kid - at least just to me," Goodwin said.

"It means the world to me. I call him all the time. Mel knows. It's love. He knows I'm a good guy. For a Hall of Famer to reach out for somebody like me is unbelievable. I still can't believe it. (But) when you get on the field, it's football."

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

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