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Goodman picks up pace in practice, earns reward

Laura Myers | Thursday, September 30, 2010

As junior receiver John Goodman watched from the sidelines while Notre Dame played Purdue and Michigan to start the season, he realized something.

“I thought, it’s coming down to my junior year and I’m running out of time,” he said. “There’s a freshman in front of me, there’s a sophomore in front of me, and then obviously there’s [junior Michael Floyd]. I just thought, I’ve got to come out and practice a lot differently.”

So Goodman studied his playbook and began to correct the mistakes he was making in practice.

“It was … going out and catching every ball rather than just the easy ones,” he said. “Making every block and running every play correctly. It’s not my physical fitness; it’s just a block in my head that I was messing up. And I overcame that.”

Goodman’s adjustments soon paid off. He returned three punts for 27 yards against Michigan State on Sept. 18, his first playing time of the season. Against Stanford, he got in the game as a receiver for the first time, and caught five passes for 59 yards.

 “You have to ask him what clicked, but that’s how you’re supposed to practice,” Irish wide receivers coach Tony Alford said. “He did some good things and got in and showed the capacity to make plays.”

Goodman, who did not play his freshman year, played in nine games in 2009 and started one, against USC. He caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, a 64-yard grab against Washington State on Oct. 31, 2009.

But freshman TJ Jones and sophomore Theo Riddick won starting receiving spots over Goodman in 2010.

“It was very frustrating,” Goodman said. “And being a junior … it was frustrating watching guys that were younger than me get in there. But you know, they deserve it. They played really well throughout camp and throughout the first few games. But I just kept with it, kept working, and that’s what it takes.”

Goodman also originally missed out on the starting punt return job, as senior Armando Allen was the No. 1 returner to begin the season. But Goodman was on top of the team’s newest depth chart, which was released Monday.

“My whole life I’ve always felt comfortable at punt return,” Goodman said. “A lot of guys ask me, ‘How do you do that? It’s so scary back there.’ But I feel like it’s natural because you have the control whether you get tackled or not. You just wave a hand and they can’t tackle you.”

Returning punts can be exciting, too, he said.

“It’s definitely exhilarating, especially when you can make a big play and get a touchdown out of it,” he said. “Hopefully that will come soon.”

Goodman’s desire to play is clear, junior quarterback Dayne Crist said.

“He’s just making steady improvement,” he said. “I’m not surprised by it, but I’m happy he’s out there and contributing, and we’ll just continue to expect more out of him. But I think that’s what he wants as well, so it’s a good situation for him.”

Alford said the reason Goodman has earned playing time is a straightforward one.

“Catching the ball,” Alford said. “He’s done better and that’s why he’s getting more reps.”

Goodman’s new attitude sprung from an uncomplicated source, as well.

“Something as simple as someone playing in front of you,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. If you really have the desire to play, that’ll hit you easily. It definitely hit me and I realized my position on the team. I have the potential to play a better role for this team and that’s what I hope to do in the future.”

Alford said those feelings were positive.

“I’d hope he was frustrated,” Alford said. “If you’re not playing it means you’ve got to work harder, get better — and he’s done that.”