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Former Gonzaga star Goodson enjoying second career

Demetri Goodson (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
Demetri Goodson (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Demetri “Meech” Goodson still wears No. 3, but it’s a whole new ball game.

Goodson, who transferred after his junior season in the Gonzaga University men’s basketball program for two seasons of football eligibility at Baylor, has made a successful transition. The Spring, Texas, native played mostly on special teams last year before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

Goodson, now a starting cornerback, made seven tackles and had a pass deflection in a 59-24 season-opening win over Southern Methodist. He intercepted a pass in Baylor’s victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday.

“Even before fall camp, I was working hard every day and guys saw me up here all the time on the field, just trying to get better with footwork,” Goodson said in a phone interview last week from Waco, Texas. “Every day in camp I’d make a big play and the coaches would talk about it: ‘Meech is getting better, y’all better watch out.’

“Once they named me the starter I was very happy,” he added. “It just let me know that anything you do and you really want, you have to work hard for it, but anything is possible.”

For Goodson, that meant going from a starting point guard on a nationally-ranked basketball team to playing defensive back and on special teams for a nationally-ranked football team. Ironically, Goodson started for Gonzaga in a victory over Baylor in Dallas in December 2010.

Goodson had one of GU’s most memorable baskets, a length-of-the-court drive and runner just before the buzzer that knocked off Western Kentucky and moved the Bulldogs into the 2009 Sweet 16. He started 68 of 69 games in his last two years at Gonzaga, but lost playing time to David Stockton in the latter part of the 2011 season. Goodson would have faced stout competition from Stockton and incoming recruits Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. – the latter two quickly moved into the starting lineup as freshmen last season – but the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder said that had nothing to do with his decision to transfer.

“I’m not afraid of competition at all,” said Goodson, whose older brother, Mike, is a second-team running back with the Oakland Raiders.

“If I would have stayed I would have played, but I don’t know how much I would have played. After a while, I wasn’t having as much fun playing basketball, just going out and having fun. I wanted to be closer to home and family and try something new.”

Goodson opted for a new challenge: football in the rugged Big 12 Conference. He said plenty of people told him he was crazy, but he was a standout until he left football after his sophomore year at Klein Collins High near Houston.

“Coach (Mark) Few told me I was crazy. He said, ‘There’s lots of guys my size that can play cornerback,’ and I told him that, ‘You’ve never seen me play football,’” said Goodson, adding that he left the program on “good terms. Nobody was mad at anybody and I said bye to Coach Few. I keep in close contact with Big Rob (Sacre) and all those guys.”

Goodson said he decided to transfer with an eye on the future.

“My brother always told me I would have been a top pick in the (NFL) draft if I kept playing football and people were always telling me they thought I’d be a great corner,” he said. “I kept letting it go in one ear and out the other, but finally one day I started thinking about the future and where I could make the most money.”

After deciding on football, he was contacted by several schools and most assumed he’d go to Texas A&M, Mike’s alma mater. When he heard from Baylor, he researched the depth chart and saw an opportunity to play immediately. Learning technique and the defensive schemes was challenging, particularly in a conference with high-powered pass offenses such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and he made his initial mark during the 2011 season by returning three kicks for 100 yards.

Goodson became close friends with Kendall Wright, a Tennessee Titans receiver who was one of five players from Baylor’s offense selected in last year’s NFL draft. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was the second overall pick. Griffin III ran track at Baylor before concentrating on football. Wright also played for Baylor’s basketball team.

Through conditioning for football, Goodson said he’s stronger and has added a few pounds while remaining one of the fastest players on the team. He played a lot of basketball with his football teammates this summer.

“I haven’t thought about it (playing basketball for Baylor),” Goodson said. “I told (football) coach (Art) Briles I wouldn’t even think about it.”

The point guard has become a pretty good defensive back.

“You only live once and I kind of wanted to just live and do everything I’m capable of doing,” Goodson said. “God blessed me with a great talent and I want to use that. It’s just crazy how everything is turning out.”