USATF presents weekly features on elite athletes, coaches, officials and those have made an impact on the sport. Marquise Goodwin, a wide receiver for the NFL's Buffalo Bills, was the top finisher at U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, propelling him to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Goodwin is now weighing his options in football and in long jump. He shared his story with Tom Surber, features contributor for USATF.
Bo Jackson, Jim Brown, Deion Sanders, Jackie Robinson and National Track & Field Hall of Famers Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Bob Hayes are all recognized as some of the greatest multi-sport athletes in history, and if you haven’t yet heard the news, it may soon be time to consider adding another name to that prestigious list.
A prep phenom out of the talent-rich state of Texas, Marquise Goodwin’s high school track career included seven Texas 5A state championships (long jump 3, triple jump 2, 4x100m relay 2), and on two occasions the Rowlett native was named the Texas Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
Goodwin’s early track career included USA Junior and World Junior long jump titles, and as a senior he set the national high school long jump record of 8.18 meters/26 feet, 10 inches in placing fifth while competing against America’s best at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
While attending the University of Texas, Goodwin was a two-time NCAA long jump champion, seven-time NCAA All-American and a five-time Big 12 Conference champion. In 2012, he became the first collegiate long jumper since 1960 to win U.S. Olympic Trials and NCAA Outdoor titles in the same year.
The excellence and versatility Goodwin displayed during his high school track career was mirrored on the football field, leading to the first team All-District wide receiver becoming a significant contributor to the famed University of Texas football team. By the time his collegiate gridiron career ended, Goodwin gained 2,776 all-purpose yards, and he caught the attention of NFL scouts when he made five catches for 44 yards and returned two punts for 30 yards during the 2013 Senior Bowl.
Goodwin’s blistering 40-yard dash time of 4.27 seconds at the 2013 NFL Combine -- just .03 seconds off the event record of 4.24 -- helped convince the Buffalo Bills to pick him in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Goodwin missed 14 games during 2015 NFL season due to broken ribs, while his first two injury-plagued NFL campaigns in 2013 and 2014 resulted in him playing in 22 regular season games. During that time he had 18 catches for 325 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver, and 20 kickoff returns for 435 yards. In addition to the rib injuries that cost Goodwin the majority of the 2015 season, his career has been sidetracked by additional injuries to his hamstring, elbow, knee, neck and a broken hand.
Goodwin is back healthy again and living in Dallas, Texas. He trains with his wife Morgan, a 100m hurdler, and his coach, Dwight Phillips, a four-time world long jump champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist. Goodwin competed in the long jump last month at the Millrose Games in New York City, where he finished third with a leap of 7.80m/25-8.
“Obviously, I didn’t do as well as I hoped at the Millrose Games, but it just gave me the opportunity to see where I was and I know I have a lot of room for improvement, and I look forward to competing this week at Indoor Nationals,” Goodwin said. “I feel pretty good actually, I’ve been training hard.”
Off the track, Goodwin received All-Academic honors in 2010 from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, and was named to the University of Texas Athletics Director’s Honor Roll on four occasions.
Goodwin’s drive to succeed in everything he does comes not only from within, but also from his sister Deja, who has never moved her arms or legs after contracting cerebral palsy, which is the most common motor disability in childhood.
“You have a girl who is 10 months younger than me, who has never walked a day in her life, and I am a male and I’ve been able-bodied my whole life, and played various sports my whole life,” Goodwin said. “I’ve had the opportunity to be my own person, to go where I want and do what I want, and she’s been restricted and wheelchair-bound her whole life and never participated in any sports or activities that involve physical exertion. With me being blessed enough and fortunate enough to do the things I’ve been capable of doing, she’s definitely been a motivation to me. On days when I feel like I’m too tired and don’t want to do it, I keep her in mind and it makes me push on a little harder.”
Another motivating factor for Goodwin is the opportunity to compete in the long jump this summer at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A favorite to medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, Goodwin finished a disappointing 10th
place with a best of 7.80m/25-7. Always one to turn disappointment into an opportunity, Goodwin is using that sub-par performance as an additional stimulus to jump better than ever this season.
“It’s definitely been very motivating,” Goodwin said. “It was somewhat of a nightmare the day that it happened, but I’ve embraced it and used it as a learning experience, so now I use the knowledge that I gained from that experience and apply it to how I go about things this year. I’m more in tune with everything, and I kind of know how to handle that situation if it happens again, and I just look forward to opportunities like that. It definitely taught me not to take opportunities like that for granted and not minimize what it really is. Embrace it, take it all in and respect it. I definitely respect it a lot more.
“At a young age, I was 21 years old and at the time it was just another day. I had been on so many different big stages in my life. I made the world team the year before and that ultimately prepared me for that moment. I had already played for the national championship in football in college. I had played in front of 105,000 people every other Saturday, so competing in the Olympics, the crowd didn’t bother me. It was just the moment, it was just different. I wish I would’ve embraced it a little bit more. Now I’m still young, going into it at 25 years old four years later, and I’m more mature. I have a different mindset and a different approach to it.”
In order to concentrate fully on training for the upcoming Olympic Trials and Olympic Games, Goodwin needed permission from his day job – playing wide receiver and kickoff returner for the Buffalo Bills – in order to chase his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. If he makes the Olympic Team, Goodwin will miss all of the Bills’ training camp and most of the preseason.
“The Bills actually supported me in my decision of trying out for the Olympics,” Goodwin said. “It’s just one of my dreams, and it’s been a dream since I was a nine-year-old little boy. Now I get to make it come true for the second time, except being a champion is a possibility.
“Everybody’s been very supportive, especially Coach (Rex) Ryan. I just didn’t want to put myself in a position where I would make a demand, or go in there and try to make things happen when I didn’t even play that much this year because I was on IR (Injured Reserve) after breaking my ribs. In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to try out, but I didn’t know how I was going to go about it, and he made it very easy. He encouraged me, as he would any other player, because that’s the kind of person he is. He wants to see everybody live their dreams out, be good men, good family guys and just live life. He gets it. We do this thing one time, so just make the most of it and I’m very, very appreciative of it.”
Goodwin has the ability, work ethic and motivation to accomplish all of his goals in track & field and football. When all is said and done, will he eventually join the esteemed list of the world’s greatest multi-sport athletes? While we won’t know the answer to that question anytime soon, we can all look forward to watching him strive and compete to be the very best he can be.
--Contributed by Tom Surber
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