Success of Goode, WVU Alums Help Tony Gibson’s Message
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — He didn’t have five stars connected with his name when he was recruited.
Most of those who come to West Virginia don’t.
It didn’t matter. He was tough. He was smart. He was determined.
And now he has a Super Bowl ring.
His name is Najee Goode, a linebacker from Cleveland, son of a former Philadelphia Eagle named John Goode. John Goode played 14 games for the Eagles in 1985.
“When I signed with the Eagles, my father told me that the fans are extremely passionate about their sports,” Najee Goode once explained. “He said I should enjoy the moment and just make plays … I was 4 years old and I knew the Eagles chant — E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES! I used to hear my dad do it all the time.”
Tony Gibson, West Virginia’s defensive coordinator, was here when Goode was recruited, hoping he could play at the major college level, not yet thinking of being one of four Mountaineers to play on the first Philadelphia Eagles team to win a Super Bowl less than one month ago.
“He’s an overachiever. He was a walk-on who fought his way onto the depth chart and ended up playing,” Gibson said.
Gibson, of course, had been part of the Rich Rodriguez staff that had the Mountaineers on the verge of maybe winning a national championship, only to lose to Pitt. Gibson then went to Michigan with Rich Rodriguez.
That Goode ever played at WVU was something of a miracle, having overcome a serious injury as a freshman in high school that threatened to end his career, as he broke his femur.
“I remember it to this day,” Goode said. “It was on a screen play. The doctors told me I would never be able to play football again because the injury was right on my growth plate.”
He underwent surgery and months of rehabilitation, but fought his way back to become a star high school player in the Cleveland area, a state champion in discus and two-year captain at WVU while earning a degree in industrial engineering.
He wasn’t expected to make it in the NFL, but made himself into one of the better special teams players in the league, much as another former WVU star, Gary Stills did, his two sons this year playing as Mountaineers after great careers at nearby Fairmont Senior.
The way Goode performed and carried himself out of WVU helped convince the Eagles they could do well with Mountaineers on their roster and they added running back Wendell Smallwood two years ago and cornerback Rasul Douglas and wide receiver Shelton Gibson for the Super Bowl run.
Four WVU players getting Super Bowl rings … what does that mean to the West Virginia football program?
“No. 1, you can use it in recruiting, but you can also use it to motivate your team that is here now. These guys see Rasul (Douglas) made it and as a junior he didn’t play very much, then really came on in his senior year,” Gibson said. “We’re proud as coaches. We’ve had a piece of everyone who won that thing. Coach (Bruce) Tall recruited Naj. I was here with Shelton, Rasul and Wendell. We are prideful of that.”
It gives them a feeling that they are doing things right, and Gibson noted that he and defensive line coach Bruce Tall also had another player, defensive end Brandon Graham of Michigan, who was the 13th player picked in the 2010 draft and a key piece of the Eagles run to a title this season.
Seeing how Douglas had to really work for what he got, having the Goode story to tell, helps them inspire their players.
“What you use it as is ‘Look, you need to work hard.’ You let them know the thing those kids had that is similar is their work ethic and how they played the game between the lines,” Gibson said.
“That’s what you try to get across to these kids … you can’t loaf, you can’t take plays off if you want to get to that level. It’s the elite. There’s 53 guys on each team there.”
All of them, of course, are elite athletes but it takes more than that.
“They can control the way they work and approach it. We always tell them ‘No matter what your ability, whether you are five-star recruit or a walk on, there’s a few things everyone can do the same … your effort, the intensity you play with, your mind set, your thinking abilities, you can get lined up, you can get the call and you can play as hard as you can,’” Gibson said.
And it doesn’t hurt, either, if you prepare yourself for life after football, as Goode has done.
Goode has joined forces with former Mountaineers Jon Ohlinger and the great Grant Wiley to create a technological company — VEEPiO — which was used by the Eagles during their Super Bowl victory.
They are involved with the WVU football program with an trying to get it into the university on other levels.
VEEPiO is making it a goal to help West Virginia graduates transition into lives after graduation by creating 21st century jobs in Morgantown and hiring West Virginia residents throughout the state.
VEEPiO has gone so far as to have an office set up in Morgantown.