When the Falcons reconvene for training camp, cornerback C.J. Goodwin will be one of the long shots to make the 53-man roster.
But that won’t deter Goodwin, who worked on a farm at Mel Blount’s Youth Home for six years mostly cutting grass before becoming a counselor to young males who face child abuse and neglect.
Goodwin, 26, and Blount’s son, Akil, attended The Linsly School in West Va.
“I’ve known him since I was in the ninth grade,” Goodwin said. “I started out as a farm hand, cutting grass. Then he transitioned me into a counselor position where I worked with kids from ages 17 to 7. That was a blessing. I hold that dear to my heart.”
Blount, the Hall of Fame defensive back from Vidalia, Ga., saw something in Goodwin, a former basketball player, who played just two seasons of college football at the Division II level. He made a call to the Pittsburgh Steelers to recommend they took a look at Goodwin.
He was granted a tryout in June 2014 and was later added to the 90-man roster on Aug. 31, 2014. He spent the 2104 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad before being released on Aug. 31, 2015.
The Falcons signed Goodwin as a wide receiver to the practice squad on Nov. 13, 2015 and released LaRon Byrd.
Late in Dan Quinn’s first season, the Falcons had Goodwin line up against All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.
“It was more fun than anything,” Goodwin said. “I really didn’t know what I was doing when they put me out there just to be an athlete. I made a few plays.”
Goodwin, who’s 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, turned a few heads.
“Guarding Julio Jones is not the easiest job on the planet,” Quinn said. “We said, ‘we might have something here.’ ”
After consulting with defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, Goodwin was moved to cornerback.
“We talked to him after the season and said we wanted to go down this road,” Quinn said. “He wanted to do it. He’s going full-time at corner now. We’ll leave him there and see what it looks like. He’s got great ball skills.”
During OTAs and at the team’s minicamp, Goodwin continued to find the ball. He made an nice interception of a Matt Schaub pass and returned it for touchdown.
“The transition now, it’s still fun, but there is just a lot to learn,” Goodwin said. “I’ll figure it out.”
Goodwin played two seasons of basketball at Bethany College before giving football a try at Fairmont State. He caught 24 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns at the NCAA Division II school.
After his coach was fired, Goodwin followed him to California (Pa.) and played mostly special teams for one season. He had 11 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Blount told Goodwin if he had a good season, he’d call the Steelers on his behalf. While it wasn’t the senior season both had envisioned, Blount kept true to his promise.
Goodwin helped his cause by running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and posted a 40-inch vertical jump at a combine hosted by the Detroit Lions.
The Falcons, with the four-game suspension of Jalen Collins, have a need at right cornerback. Goodwin is trying to master nuances of the position and will have to show the coaches he’s willing and capable of tackling when the pads come on.
“I think my athletic ability from basketball will help a lot,” said Goodwin, a former point guard.
While he sparkled this offseason, Goodwin knows it will be a difficult conversion.
“On offense, you know what’s going on,” Goodwin said. “You know where you’re supposed to be. On defense, you have to be in the area. You have to read off what the wide receiver is doing. I think it’s the hardest position in sports.”
Goodwin still volunteers at the youth and stays in contact with Blount about once a month when he’s away.
He can’t really take some of Blount’s tips from the Steel Curtain Era.
“He was more old school,” Goodwin said. “He’d rough you up. We can’t do that now.”
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