One year ago, Marquise Goodwin was performing in the Big 12 Conference Track and Field Championships and gearing up to represent the United States in the long jump at the Summer Olympic Games in London.
On Saturday he was wearing No. 88 for the Buffalo Bills and blazing down the sideline at the team’s rookie minicamp practice.
This is the first spring of Goodwin’s life that he is practicing football, not performing in track and field. The third-round draft choice from the University of Texas is excited about how much better he might get on the gridiron now that football is his full-time job.
“I have so much room to get better,” Goodwin said after the team’s second rookie minicamp practice Saturday afternoon. “I’m devoting all my time to football. I’ve got so many technical things that could be corrected.”
“I’m really excited,” Goodwin said. “It’s actually been a lot better on my body. I’m a lot more healthy. I’ve got that football mentality year-round. It’s all football right now. Track was then. Now it’s football.”
Speed makes Goodwin a fascinating prospect. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds, the third fastest time of any player since the NFL Scouting Combine started using electronic timing in 1999. Goodwin’s world-class speed helped him excel in the long jump. He won the event at the U.S. Olympic trials last June then placed 10th at the London Games last August.
Goodwin, however, always has considered himself a football player who runs track and says he’s retired from the long jump.
“He’s a football player first,” said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix. “He’s had all that success in track, but I think when you see him play I think you’ll realize he’s a football player; he just needs reps and touches.”
Goodwin is a Texas native who saw significant playing time for the Longhorns right from the start of his true freshman season. He caught 30 passes as a freshman, 31 as a sophomore, 33 as a junior and 26 as a senior. He essentially served as Texas’ No. 3 wideout. He also averaged 10 yards a carry on 35 rushing attempts his last two seasons.
In his final game, a victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, Goodwin scored on a 64-yard end around and caught a 36-yard game-winning TD pass in the final three minutes. After accepting the offensive player of the game award, he struck an archer pose like Jamaican Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.
“I was just feeling myself a little bit,” Goodwin laughed. “It was the ultimate satisfaction, being out there and getting a team W. I’m looking forward to getting some Ws and doing the same thing here.”
He’s not referring to the archer pose. That was a one-time thing.
Goodwin’s big Texas finish was a cause for some regret among Longhorn fans who thought the Texas coaches should have found more ways to get him the ball the last two seasons. Goodwin scored six TDs on 39 touches as a senior. His long scores – including a 55-yard TD catch and 69-yard run against Ole Miss – epitomized the “shot out of a cannon” cliché.
“Did Texas utilize him enough? Unfortunately, I think we all know how to answer that,” wrote InsideTexas.com after the Alamo Bowl.
Goodwin takes the high road on the question of fans wanting him to get more touches.
“I was pretty aware of it,” he said. “People talk. But they don’t know what goes on on the field in practice and in the meeting rooms. It is what it is. Everybody hopes for a little more. But whatever you get just make the best of it.”
At 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, Goodwin’s small stature probably limits the amount he can be used in an outside position. Even though he estimates Texas used him 80 percent as a wide flanker and 20 percent in the slot, he likely will spend most of his time in a slot position in the NFL. He has a thick, muscular physique, so there is hope he can withstand hits over the middle.
Goodwin knows he must work on his craft with receivers coach Ike Hilliard to earn touches with the Bills.
“Every day out here coach Hilliard has done a spectacular job getting us better,” Goodwin said. “He’s helped me run better routes, he’s helped me get off the line. He’s helped me focus on catching the ball down the field, the little things receivers do.”
Goodwin already shows he needs no help getting deep downfield. He hauled in a perfect deep ball from rookie EJ Manuel early in Friday’s practice. He had to wait up for the first deep throw from Manuel Saturday and hold up again on an early deep ball from Jeff Tuel. Manuel hit Goodwin on a 60-yard bomb down the right sideline later in Saturday’s workout.
“The fact that I have Marquise Goodwin on my team now, I have to get used to that, just letting it go, because sometimes you want to just be perfect,” Manuel said. “But with that guy you can just throw it out there. ... I don’t think you can really ever overthrow the guy.”