Goodwin emerging from shadows

September 05, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Matt Goodwin is a living paradox with the Baltimore CFLs.

He is a track man playing football, a defensive back in linebacker's clothes, a raw rookie who delivers big play after big play.

He is the CFLs' most unsung player.

But not for long.

"I'd say he is as good a first-year player as I've seen in my three years in the league," said Darryl Edralin, linebacker and special teams coach for the CFLs. "He's up there with any of the rookie of the year candidates."

Goodwin, 24, also is at the top of Baltimore's list of players who have exceeded expectations.

Before training camp, each coach privately chose an unheralded player he felt would make a big splash. According to Edralin, coach Don Matthews picked Goodwin.

There were two reasons -- speed (he runs the 40-yard -- in 4.4 seconds) and size (6 feet 2, 205 pounds).

"He's got great speed," said Matthews, "and a knack for making plays. You don't coach that. That's the ability he brings with him."

It's a characteristic that has become undeniable in recent weeks. In Saturday night's 28-16 victory over the Shreveport Pirates, Goodwin was relentless.

He made three tackles from his outside linebacker spot. He intercepted a pass that led to a touchdown. He knocked down another pass. He sacked the quarterback on a two-point conversion try. And he forced a fumble -- with his back, no less, while locked in combat with a blocker.

For the second time in nine games, he was the team's defensive player of the game. No other player has won the award more than once, and this is a defense with the league's 1993 defensive player of the year, its top two sackers and an all-league cornerback.

The week before, Goodwin logged his third blocked kick of the season on a punt that was ultimately recovered by teammate Sheldon Canley for a touchdown.

What makes Goodwin unusual is, well, everything. You could start with the fact that his twin brother Malcolm is a reserve linebacker -- and special teams demon -- for the CFLs.

Then there is his college background. Matt played only two years of football at Iowa State, where he got an academic scholarship, ran track four years and graduated with a 3.27 GPA in political science.

There is his legal ambition. He wants to become a lawyer, even if it means waiting until his football career is over. "I don't care if I'm 40. I will go to law school," he said.

And last, but not least, is his evolution from marginal roster player to impact player and standout special teamer. Goodwin arrived in camp last May as a cornerback (because of his speed) and quickly became a halfback (because of his size).

"He wasn't going to make it as a halfback," Matthews said. "That is the most difficult position in man coverage."

Goodwin made it as a special teamer -- he blocked a field goal in the season opener at Toronto -- and then started getting time at the weak, or short side, linebacker spot in Week 2 against Calgary.

When he played well against the run and the pass, the coaching staff realized it was on to something.

"He fell into the position," Edralin said. "He's big enough to play the run and athletic enough to play the pass. He's smart and studies the game."

By Week 5 in Las Vegas, Goodwin was a starting linebacker. That week he blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for his first pro touchdown.

After five starts, he has 26 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two sacks and has broken up five passes.

That the Goodwins are in Baltimore at all is an upset. Matt tried to make it with the Chicago Bears last summer and Malcolm with the Los Angeles Rams. Both were cut.

Rather than accept a minimal signing bonus to go back to Chicago this year with his brother, Matt opted for Baltimore and the CFL.

"I wanted to play," Goodwin said. "That was the biggest reason. If I went to Chicago and got cut again, I thought my career would be over. I thought if I go in and do good, maybe it would make a few teams look."

His goal is to return, with his brother, to the NFL.

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