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Golden Touch: Rowlett graduate Marquise Goodwin brings a piece of the community with him to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London
By DEVIN HASSON, email@example.com
This week is what Marquise Goodwin has envisioned for years.
In 2007, as a sophomore at Rowlett High School, he claimed the gold medal in the long jump at the Class 5A State Track and Field meet in Austin.
Afterward, Goodwin discussed not only his victory that day, but also his future.
It was an ambitious goal for any athlete, particularly a 16-year-old. But from the calm, matter-of-fact way in which he talked about his future, one could tell this was not the first time Goodwin had thought about what he wanted to accomplish and he spoke with a sense of confidence and assurance that made it believable.
Five years removed from winning that first gold medal at the state level, Goodwin has fulfilled his goal of making it the Olympic games.
The dream came to fruition on June 24, Day 3 of the United States Olympic Track and Field Trials at Oregon's Haywood Field in Eugene. As the day wound to a close, the crowd of better than 21,000 turned its attention to the final event of the day--the men's long jump.
Thanks to a serious of impressive jumps early on, Goodwin, now 21, had already achieved the lifelong goal in knowing he had qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London, but it was not yet time to celebrate.
After leading the long jump competition for much of the day, he dropped into second place when longtime rival and friend William Claye jumped 27 feet, matching Goodwin's meet-best mark to that point, to edge in front.
With one jump left, the spotlight was on Goodwin. It is a place in which he has shined his entire athletic career and now he had the opportunity to do so once again on the biggest stage yet.
Goodwin is humble and gracious, yet confident and determined. Those qualities can be seen by simply watching him from afar as he moves around on the track, and are part of the reason he has such a magnetic personality.
So it was to no surprise that prior to his final jump when he raised his hands above his head and started to clap, an action he used to employ at the state meet, the crowd quickly followed suit.
The noise grew to a crescendo by the time he hit the board, followed by a couple of seconds of silence as he floated through the air.
Goodwin hit the sand, got out of the pit and immediately knew he had won. So, too, did the crowd, which included Rowlett head track and field coach David Nanez and his wife, Cara, as they roared their approval.
Nobody in the stadium, of course, could top Goodwin's biggest supporter, his mother Tamina, who Goodwin says he can always hear no matter how large the venue.
The final mark was announced at 27-04, and Goodwin could officially add the title of U.S. Olympic Trials champion to his impressive resume.
The cheers could be heard far beyond Haywood Field. They stretched down to Austin, where Goodwin just completed his junior year at the University of Texas as a member of the football and track teams.
And they might have been loudest in the North Dallas area, where family, friends, coaches and fans followed closely via their computers, television sets or phones.
It is normal for a city to root for the hometown kid, but Goodwin's bond with this community is anything but common.
It is the extension of a deeper mutual relationship in which a young athlete embraced a community and the community embraced him back.
Coyle Middle School coach Richard McCroan was conducting practice for the seventh-grade team on the first day of school in August 2003.
He was more than pleased with what he was seeing on the field, as the group was showing the potential to be one of the best in school history.
But out of the corner of his eye off the field, McCroan noticed a woman watching the practice and patiently waiting for its conclusion.
Shortly after breaking for the end of practice, the woman, Tamina Goodwin, approached McCroan.
She explained that her family had just moved to Rowlett from Arlington and her son, Marquise, had been a good football player. She asked McCroan if it was possible for Marquise to have a chance to join the team even though practices had already started.
McCroan said he would see what he could do. Tamina thanked him and then handed him a letter before she went on her way.
"There are a lot of mothers and parents that think their son is a good player, so this was something that happens all the time," McCroan said. "Honestly, I didn't think much of it."
Little did McCroan know how his life was about to change.
The letter included some press clippings about Marquise and talked about some of his other achievements, but there was something about it that intrigued McCroan.
The next day, he checked Marquise's schedule in the office and went to pull him out of class to meet him. He soon realized that no on-the-field tryout would be necessary.
"As soon as I saw him, I knew he was special without even playing," McCroan said. "He came right up, shook hands, looked you right in the eyes and smiled. I told him that anybody whose mother loves you as much as she says she does is going to get a chance."
While Goodwin's first impression in the classroom was good, he was just as dynamic on the field.
Even on a talented Coyle team, Goodwin stood out, doing things even his coaches were having a hard time believing.
"Ron Johnson, who is now the principal at Wylie, was an assistant at the time. On the second day of practice, he turned to me and said, 'Did you hear that? You can actually hear that kid run'," McCroan said. "He had a whooshing sound when he went by even then."
It did not take long for word to get to the coaching staff at Rowlett High School, where most of the kids from Coyle attend.
"Immediately," Kiff Hardin, Rowlett head football coach, said when asked how quickly he found out about the new kid at Coyle. "You could see right away he had all the potential in the world."
Nanez was the head track coach and an assistant on the football staff at the time. Not only was he getting feedback from the coaches about Marquise, but also from his son, Nick, who was in the same grade at Coyle.
"He would tell me things Marquise would do all the time," Nanez said. "I think he even told me about him being able to dunk a ball in the seventh grade."
The Coyle seventh-grade team went undefeated that season. Goodwin was also part of the basketball and track and field teams.
Prior to Goodwin's eighth-grade year, McCroan got offered a chance to join the staff at Rowlett. Although he had a reigning undefeated football at team at Coyle, he opted to take the position, with having the opportunity to coach Marquise for four more years being a big factor in the decision.
Coyle's eighth-grade football team also won the city championship with an undefeated record. Goodwin set the city record in the long jump and the track and field team won the city title with records that might never be broken.
The next step was for he and his Coyle teammates to take their talents to Rowlett, but it was a move Goodwin almost never made.
A difficult sacrifice
Goodwin was born on Nov. 11, 1990, in Lubbock while Tamina was still in high school. Just 10 months later, he found himself with a baby sister, Shaniquah, who shortly thereafter was given the nickname Deja.
Deja, though, struggled through her early life with health problems and was eventually diagnosed with cerebal palsy.
With the kids' biological father having left, Tamina had to find a way to support two children, including one with special needs. Because of this, the family moved several times, trying to find the right all-around spot.
The Goodwins, who now included younger girls Chez and Brye, had hoped Rowlett was that place, but circumstances resulted in the need to move in with family in Mesquite.
Marquise had always put his family first and still does to this day--if Tamina is in the stands, she is always who he looks for first and Deja is almost always the first phone call he takes after a game or meet. He had assumed the "man of the house" role at an early age and he called Deja not only his inspiration but his best friend.
But Marquise had also found a new family within the Rowlett community and it was one he did not want to leave behind.
Marquise's family, as well as his new Rowlett family, worked to find a solution. Although the Goodwins moved to Mesquite, Marquise stayed behind in Rowlett, living with the families of classmates.
It was tough on him, but fortunately, Mesquite was not too far away and he was able to visit as often as possible.
"He has such as genuine love for his mother and his sister and his entire family," Nanez said. "He has taken over that father figure role that hadn't been there for him and he has always wanted to do whatever he can to provide for his family."
Joining the Eagles
Nanez was well-aware of what Goodwin could do on the track when he officially arrived on the Rowlett campus.
But, a freshman is still a freshman, the coaches thought, and Goodwin started on the junior varsity with the hopes to move him along gradually.
"That experiment lasted one meet," Nanez said. "I just thought, why waste him here when he can compete on the varsity level, and the rest is history."
Goodwin wasted little time in making a name for himself, particularly in the long jump. He qualified for state in the event as a freshman, taking seventh place in Austin.
The following year, he was back in two events, winning his first gold medal in the long jump and placing second in the triple jump.
Not only was Goodwin continuing to improve on the jumps, he was also making rapid progress in the sprints. Nanez knew that if he could find some complimentary pieces, the Eagles could do what no other Garland ISD team had ever done--win a state championship in track and field.
"Most people close to track knew what he could do in winning the long jump, but most people didn't know about his sprinting ability," Nanez said. "At the time, I didn't have the nucleus of kids around to him to provide a capable supporting cast, but once we did, we could take the next step."
Goodwin provided the example in practice with his work ethic for his teammates to follow, and they harvested their own talents the following spring.
Goodwin repeated his title in the long jump and also claimed the gold medal in the triple jump. But new to the resume were the sprints. Goodwin placed second in the 100 meters and joined Jared Jackson, Nick Smith and Kyle Clemons on the 400 relay team that won the gold medal in a time of 40.26 seconds, the fastest in the nation that year.
Goodwin, Nick Smith, Jared Jackson and Hilbert Jackson then teamed to take third in the 800 relay as Rowlett won its first state championship as a team in school history.
"After his junior year is when it really started taking off," Nanez said. "I knew he was going to come back the next year with a good chance to break the state record and the national record."
Goodwin was also showing off his talents on the national and international stages, winning the long jump at both the USATF Junior Championships and the IAAF World Junior Championships. He was named 2008 Texas Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
But while buzz began to spread in track circles about his future potential in the sport, the calendar flipped to August, and for Goodwin, that meant football season.
A balancing act
During high school, Goodwin said his favorite sport was football and he had no plans to step away, especially after earning all-district honors at wide receiver the previous season.
"He's a dangerous player, one of those guys who can break one at any time," Hardin said. "And you wouldn't necessarily think it, but he is tough. He doesn't go out there to avoid getting hurt, he is right in the middle."
While some might have tried to plant a seed in Goodwin's ear that risking injury on the gridiron was a mistake, he was not listening.
That season's Rowlett team, made up of a nucleus of seniors that had once dominated at Coyle, was able to capture the program's first district championship. Goodwin was once again named to the 10-5A first team at wide receiver, completing his three-year career with 132 receptions and 17 touchdowns.
"At first, some people thought he was a track athlete that played football, but he's not, he's both, and you can't say that about a lot of people," Hardin said. "Whatever season it was, he was going to give 100 percent to that sport."
Athletics were not the only area where Marquise was excelling. He was also a standout in the classroom.
McCroan recalled when he was asked to monitor a classroom that was doing a study session in science for the TAKS test, which is a standardized test students must pass to graduate from high school.
It just so happened that Marquise was in the class.
"The teacher was putting these slides up and would ask what is the correct answer, a, b, c or d," McCroan said. "Some of those words were so long I didn't even know what they were, but Marquise would raise his hand and get the right answer every time. After about the sixth time, the teacher had to say 'Marquise, let some of your other classmates answer some of these'."
But to achieve complete balance, Marquise needed to fulfill his needs outside of Rowlett High School, as well, which he was able to do by spending as much time as he could with his family in Mesquite.
"He's so talented. He was a world-class artist, he could design houses, he's smart, at the top of his class," McCroan said. "You include the athletics, the creativity, the smarts and then just the way he cares for his family and everybody around him, he is just a one-of-a-kind kid. His fabric is just different."
There was no doubt the future was bright, the question was which direction Marquise was going to choose.
Goodwin had emerged as one of the top wide receiving prospects in the state and had offers from all over the country, but decided to accept a track scholarship to the University of Texas.
He made it official on National Signing Day in February 2009, signing his letter of intent in front of Tamina, Deja and many other elated family members, friends and coaches.
With his high school career winding down, Goodwin had a couple of encore performances left in him.
Despite not arriving until 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning due to graduation ceremonies the previous night, he competed in five events that day at the 5A state meet in June.
He followed through on Nanez's prediction in setting the state record in the long jump with a winning mark of 26-01 ¼. He added a gold medal in the triple jump and silver medals in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Goodwin, Hilbert Jackson, Clemons and Carl Perrymon then won the 400 relay, helping the Eagles edge Killeen Ellison to win their second consecutive state title.
Despite the remarkable achievements, Goodwin kept things in perspective after the meet.
"I'll let it sink in but I won't let it go to my head because I know I need to stay humble and I always know there is someone out there better," he said. "I know I can't rest; I have to keep working to get better myself."
Just a few weeks later, Goodwin won the junior portion of the U.S. Championships, setting a national high school record with a jump of 26-10.
He finished his high school career at Rowlett with 12 total medals as the Eagles became only the fourth boys team in state history to win back-to-back state titles.
"We started track in Garland in 1918 and had never won a state championship," GISD Athletics Director Homer B. Johnson said. "Then he comes along and they win two in a row and he nearly had enough points on his own, so it was an incredible."
Smooth transition to the Longhorns
It takes a lot to impress Johnson, who has seen a little bit of everything during his 64 years with the school district. His wisdom through experience has also been called upon by countless coaches and players over the years when faced with a tough choice.
McCroan said Johnson provided a father figure for him growing up, much the same way McCroan had stepped into a similar role for Goodwin.
McCroan introduced the two during middle school and Johnson and Goodwin's relationship grew from there.
In August of 2009, as family and friends, including McCroan and his wife, Tracie, were preparing to move him into his dormitory at UT, Goodwin stopped by Johnson's office.
"He comes in and said he thinks he wants to play football," Johnson said.
Johnson, who already believed Goodwin was a future Olympian, cautioned him about the dangers of getting injured, but said Goodwin was not afraid of that.
"I said if you want to play football, why don't you come on down the hall and call Mack Brown and tell him you want to walk on," Johnson said. "He called and Coach Brown obviously knew who he was and Coach Brown asked him if he could come out today. Marquise said he couldn't today, but he could be there tomorrow. After that, he was playing in their first game."
Goodwin joined a talented roster at Texas on a team that would go on to play in the Bowl Championship Series national championship game against Alabama that season.
Goodwin not only overcame his status as a walk-on, he earned a football scholarship by making huge contributions, including a game-winning touchdown catch in a 16-13 victory over Oklahoma and a critical 95-yard kickoff return for a score late in the fourth quarter in a 49-39 win at Texas A&M.
Goodwin had been able to juggle two full-time sports, maintain his academics and stay true to his family at Rowlett and he made that transition into college as well.
After shedding the pads in January, he went to work in the spring for the Texas track team, where he not only captured the Big 12 Outdoor championship in the long jump, but also the NCAA championship.
During his sophomore season, Goodwin fought through some nagging injuries all year long, but was still able to defend his Big 12 championship in the long jump.
Heading into his junior year at Texas, and with the Olympics just a year away, Goodwin made the decision to concentrate on track.
However, that summer, he fell one spot short of making the team at the IAAF World Championships.
With football season growing closer and closer, Goodwin began to feel the itch to return to the gridiron.
Although Brown had already agreed to let him red-shirt that season, Goodwin wanted to get back and be a part of a Longhorn team that was desperately trying to turn things around after a 5-7 record the year before.
Among those that he discussed his options with was Johnson, who told Goodwin if he wanted to play, he should go play.
Goodwin called Brown at the 11th hour to see if he could rejoin the team for the upcoming season and not only did Brown agree, but Goodwin was back in the lineup for the second game of the season.
"They asked Coach Brown how he could play Marquise after missing all of spring and fall practices and he said, 'You can't coach speed'," Johnson said with a laugh.
When it was time to flip the switch from football to track mode, Goodwin did so with vigor in the spring with the Olympics just a few months away.
He captured his third consecutive Big 12 championship in the long jump and followed that up in early June by winning the NCAA Outdoor championship for the second time with a jump of 27-0.
But while those victories would be pinnacles in many athletes' careers, they were merely precursors to Goodwin's date with destiny.
Achieving the Dream
Goodwin returned to Oregon, the same site of the NCAA Championships just a few weeks earlier, with his goal of making the Olympic team within his grasp.
He was not alone, as his biggest fan, Tamina, made the trip, as well.
They were joined on the Friday before Goodwin competed by Nanez and his wife, Cara, who were on a trip celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
Nanez had been to the Olympic Trials before, but never with his wife. As they discussed possible destination ideas for their anniversary, he threw out the idea.
"She accepted almost immediately," said Nanez of the trip, which ended in them heading off to San Francisco. "The main reason for the trip was our anniversary but being able to work this in with a chance to see Marquise, it worked out great."
The Nanez's visited with Marquise for a short while on Friday before he was scheduled to jump and were in the stands that afternoon.
"It wasn't a great day, it was cold and wet and Marquise did not jump as well as he is capable, but he was able to make it through," Nanez said.
In fact, Goodwin qualified 10th out of the 12 athletes that moved on to the finals, and his best jump was 25-2 ½.
By Sunday, though, the dreary conditions had turned into sunny skies, as if to provide a perfect backdrop for Goodwin's day.
Unlike the preliminaries, Goodwin was in charge from the start, posting a mark of 26-5 ¾ to take the early lead. He pushed his best jump to 27-0 on his third attempt and added a mark of 26-11 ¼.
That was enough to pull away from almost the entire field. Claye was the exception, and he matched Goodwin's mark of 27-0 and added a 26-11 ½ to take the lead.
That merely provided more drama in the final round and that is a situation Goodwin thrives in. Saving his best for last, Goodwin uncorked a personal-best mark of 27-4 to add the title of U.S. Olympic Trials champion to his lengthy list of accolades.
"First of all, honors to God because without him, there is no me," Goodwin said. "Since '07 we (Claye) have been competing on a national level. We have become brothers ... we all applaud each other when we do good. ... Everybody came focused today and that's when the biggest jumps came."
Back at his home, McCroan, whose hand had started to numb from hitting the refresh button on his computer so many times, could finally start his own celebration.
Hardin, watching on television, could only shake his head at the final jump, "27-04, wow, what a competitor" he said.
Word spread quickly throughout the North Dallas community, as family and friends rushed to call, text or post messages on Facebook.
Inside the stadium, David and Cara Nanez tried to discover a way to find Marquise, who was being ushered away by stadium and U.S. track and field officials for the medal ceremony.
Amidst the crowd, they spotted Tamina, who was also looking for her son. At the security line, Nanez attempted to get through and joked that he might have been thrown in jail if Cara had not been around to diffuse the situation.
In the middle of a frenzied atmosphere, Marquise somehow found his family once again, parting the crowd just long enough to get a congratulatory handshake from Nanez and give Tamina a big hug.
"Words can't even explain how overcome with joy I am," Marquise said. "I can hear (Tamina) over everybody."
A fitting welcome and sendoff
Not long after Goodwin's victory, family members in the area began to plan his welcome home. After all, he would not have long to stay with a trip to London now on the itinerary.
They called Johnson and asked if he could set up a place. While the Special Events Center was unavailable, Johnson was able to reserve a spot on July 8 at the McDonald Building at First Baptist Church in Garland, one of the largest venues in the city.
Sammy Walker, owner of Sammy Walker's Bar-B-Que in Rowlett, was more than willing to play host to the event.
Walker knows all about Goodwin's journey as he himself was an Olympian, competing in the shot put in 1968 and in weightlifting in1976. He is also the President of the Southwest Chapter of the United States Olympian Association.
Nobody was quite sure what the turnout was going to be and even Johnson and Walker were surprised. There were family members and friends, of course, but also city council members, school board members and others from around the community.
Rowlett mayor Todd Gottel was there as were other former Olympians, including Rowlett resident Janine Bowman (shooting), Joan Hansen (track) and John McNally (shooting).
The event lasted nearly three hours, with a few giving short speeches and most others sharing stories in the crowd.
Of those stories that stood out to Walker was one that he heard from Marquise's family about the University of Texas football banquet.
"Mack Brown was introducing the players one at a time and was saying a little bit about each one and when he brought Marquise up, he said 'I want my son to grow up just like Marquise Goodwin'," Walker said. "That is a real testament to his character."
In all, an estimated 800 people showed up during the course of the day to congratulate the hometown hero.
"It was the biggest thing to happen here in Garland in quite a while," Johnson said.
Goodwin spent his few days in town trying to see everybody he could, which is no easy task considering how many relationships he has built over the years.
But his mind never steered completely off of what was in front of him across the Atlantic Ocean.
"That next Thursday, after the event, he was out at Rowlett High School working out on the track," Nanez said. "He could have taken a break and done other things, but he didn't. That just tells you he knows what he has to do so he is 100 percent prepared."
A growing legacy on and off the track
Garland ISD has produced some great athletes over the years, but Goodwin will be the first from the school district to compete in the Olympics.
There is no better authority on GISD athletes than Johnson, who has seen most of the good ones during his 64 years as coach and athletic director.
Among those that stand out, according to Johnson, is Bobby Boyd, who he coached at Garland in the 1950s. Boyd went on to a stellar career as quarterback at Oklahoma before embarking on a nine-year career with the Baltimore Colts where he earned All-Pro honors and won a Super Bowl.
There was also Garland graduate Ricky Pierce, who starred at Rice and had a 16-year career in the NBA, Herkie Walls, another two-sport star from Garland who excelled in football and track at Texas, as well as Ike Diogu, who was a member of the Owls' 1999 state championship football team and who now plays in the NBA.
"We've had our fair share of great athletes and he (Goodwin) is right there at the top," Johnson said. "I think he is going to win (in London)."
Goodwin will enter the long jump with the fourth-best qualifying jump in the world this year at 8.33 meters, ranking him barely behind Greg Rutherford of Great Britain (8.35m), Sergey Morgunov of Russia (8.34m) and Sebastian Bayer of Germany (8.34m).
Two weeks ago, he competed in a world-class field in Monaco in the final big meet before the Olympics where he finished sixth, but admitted to McCroan he was using the event as more of a tune-up to get ready for the Games.
Still, as much as there is to discuss concerning his career on the track and football field, those close to Marquise talk about much more than just athletics.
"He always comes home," Hardin said. "He is part of the community and part of Rowlett and he makes sure to keep that connection. He comes back to Rowlett and does things like speak at elementary schools, even if nobody asks him to. For a kid with his schedule to make time to help is special. He never forgot where he came from."
"His discipline, his morals, the way he treats and looks after his family, the way he treats all people, it is hard to describe with words," McCroan said. "It doesn't matter if you are family or meeting them for the first time, he always draws people to him; I have never seen anything like it."
When Goodwin steps onto the track on Friday, he will support in the stadium, including Tamina.
But he will also have a cheering sections of thousands back home who feel as if they will be sharing the moment with him.
"I think we all wish we could be over there with him if we could," Nanez said. "I hope he can come back with a medal and I think he has a good chance. There is not a bigger spotlight for track and field than the Olympics and he has always been able to pull out a big jump in those situations, whether it was the state meet in high school, the Big XII, the Olympic Trials ... don't be surprised if he doesn't pull off another big-time jump in London."
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