Though he makes a living with his feet and his speed, 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was a slow burn these past four years.
The problem, he explains, is that he spent the first part of his career with the Buffalo Bills and no one got to know him, not the real him. His coaches and offensive coordinators labeled him a one-dimensional player, though when he stares in the mirror, he sees the NFL’s version of a Renaissance man.
He runs. He jumps. He catches passes. His exceptional speed enables him to blow past defenders and into wide open deep spaces. Yet given the opportunity, Goodwin believes he can do a lot more to earn his salary, which is what led him to Kyle Shanahan and convinced him to sign a two-year, $6 million contract with the 49ers in March.
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“The offense challenges me here because it’s not like I come to practice and think, ‘Oh, I’ve got 10 go-routes,’ and that’s all,” Goodwin said. “Now I might have a dig or a curl or a slant. I might be involved in an option. Who knows? Just give me a chance. You don’t think I can catch? Let me show you. You don’t think I can run routes? Well, give me an opportunity and you will see what I can do. Kyle is giving me the chance.”
The 5-foot-9, 179-pound Texas native has been a standout performer throughout camp. His leaping grabs and route running are drawing praise from his coaches and teammates, and eliciting approving murmurs from the crowd. Particularly when paired with starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, Goodwin attacks the middle, executes “stop and go’s” and slants, and shows off his afterburners when asked.
His unusually large hands have been soft and sure as well – not always the case in the past – furthering his prospects of securing the No. 2 wide receiver spot behind Pierre Garcon.
More? Goodwin really loves to play. There is a joy in his stride, in his occasional dance step in rhythm with the music blaring over the loudspeaker. He also really loves to work. The NFL isn’t even his only pursuit.
The Dallas resident, who was a standout in baseball, football and track and field at Rowlett High School and a two-time NCAA long jump champion at Texas, won the long jump at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Though he finished 10th in the London Games, he thrusts out his left forearm, unprompted, and proudly displays a large tattoo of the Olympic rings.
The option of devoting himself exclusively to one sport was a nonstarter, partly because of the women in his life, and especially his sister, Deja, who was born with cerebral palsy. Animated and engaging during most of the conversation near the practice field last week, Goodwin speaks in hushed, almost reverential tones about his older sibling. His features soften noticeably. He recalls leaving the house for games and track meets during his boyhood, and upon returning home, being summoned by Deja for a full accounting.
She remains his biggest fan and most outspoken critic – post-game critiques are a given – and she loves to watch him run and jump.
“A lot of people wanted me to choose between football and track,” Goodwin said, “but I always felt blessed to have these gifts. Deja is 25 now, and her feet have never touched the ground of her own free will. Imagine that? How can I give up as far as making the most of my abilities?”
Though he continued to run sprints, Goodwin said his mother nudged him to the high jump because he constantly “bounced off walls” and “back-flipped” in the living room.
Then there is this: Goodwin’s wife, the former Morgan Snow, also ran track and was a nine-time All-American for the Longhorns. Note the UT connection here. The fact Shanahan was a wide receiver at Texas for two seasons added two more pluses on the 49ers’ balance sheet when the couple was contemplating where Marquise should sign during free agency.
Santa Clara it is, and for Goodwin, it seems to be happening quickly. Though he was underwhelming in his four seasons at Buffalo, with 49 receptions for 780 yards and six touchdowns, his performance thus far at training camp suggests a more prominent role in the 49ers offense. Nor does it hurt that he has struck up a friendship with Hoyer, also in his first year with the 49ers.
“(Marquise) has been awesome,” said the quarterback. “The one thing for me about Marquise, other than knowing that he had been in the Olympics – and he was really, really fast – then he got here and you can just tell that they (Bills) only used him to go deep, and no one really coached him. I think he’s taken the (49ers) coaching really well. I could tell a difference from when we worked in June. I could tell he’s been working at it. I know the one good thing, the good decision he made, was to come here because Kyle knows how to use guys like him.”
That’s all Goodwin asks. Time passes quickly, too. At 26, he is healthy and happy and entering the prime of his career.
“Shanahan is going to me on every single route,” he said, nodding. “I think he relates to my situation a little bit. And you don’t know how good it feels to have a coach who believes in you.”