Cornerback Demetri Goodson made a different switch in professional sports back in 2011. Yes, Goodson left playing basketball at Gonzaga to play football, but most of the time when we see this switch, it’s for bigger and more physical players who become tight ends. Even the occasional defensive lineman such as Green Bay’s own Julius Peppers can make the switch. However, it’s a bit more rare for basketball players to become defensive backs.
Still, back in the 1960’s, the first player to actually come over from basketball to the NFL was indeed a defensive back. Cornell Green was signed in ‘62 by the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent after Green played basketball at Utah State University, without lining up for a single snap of football. (Shout out to Gil Brandt.) We’ve seen tons of college ball players head to the NFL and have success playing positions that translate relatively well from the physical stand point, but defensive backs like Green and now Goodson? Not so much.
So that brings us to the new Packers cornerback. Goodson transferred to Baylor in 2011 after having a role on the Gonzaga basketball squad. It’s been three years since he last played college basketball, but a lot of the players inside Green Bay’s locker room still see him as a Spalding guy, as Goodson noted in his media availability after the Packers' rookie camp wound down:
Literally everybody here, every time they see me they say something about basketball. I feel like everyone here thinks they’re a basketball player. Casey [Hayward] thinks he’s a point guard. I’ll be walking by him and he’ll bump into me or something like that. I think it was last Sunday we went in there and played some horse and stuff so that’s fun. I actually lost a couple of games.
Goodson is the only player in college sports history to start an NCAA tournament game and a BCS bowl game. While playing for the Zags, Goodson averaged just 5.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in Spokane. During the 2009 NCAA tournament, Goodson had a memorable moment when he drove the length of the court and scored the game-winning basket for the Bulldogs as they beat Western Kentucky 83-81. Although he wasn’t a household name at Gonzaga, Goodson speculates that if he continued playing basketball and didn’t get drafted or wasn’t given an NBA camp invite, he would have gone the route of playing elsewhere.
I really don’t know, I feel like I have the talent to play in the league but my size, you know, I probably say somewhere overseas.
It took a while for Goodson to realize the switch he needed to make between sports. Heck, he had put on a football helmet for the first time in six years when he ended up in Waco, Texas at Baylor. He had last played football in high school, and being able to apply his basketball skills from Gonzaga to the football field helped his skillset.
The lateral movements, the quick twitch movements, playing man-to-man defense helps me out playing cornerback. I think that definitely helped me out.
Now Goodson is at a mature age of 24 (he’ll be 25 next month), but still, he can’t believe he made the turnaround to football and is standing where he is today. But a switch of this kind is fairly easier for athletes who have the natural skills.
I’ve always been good at it, but I think it clicked on me junior year. After my junior season my dad use to always tell me that if it didn’t work out I could always go back and try to play. But I actually did it; it actually worked out. It’s crazy.
I’m definitely blessed for sure with the talent – great feet and hips. I’ve always been good, but it’s been about five or six years since I played football so to actually do it, and get here has been a blessing for me.
On top of making the switch, Goodson battled through a tough string of injuries in his three seasons at Baylor. During the 2011 season, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury, and in ’12, his season was done due to an arm.
I wasn’t too down on that [the ankle injury], but it took a lot of hard work to get my foot back to me running and stuff. After that I was ready and I think I was like first or second-string going into the season and I broke my arm and I was like, ‘oh my god I can’t believe this happened again’.
Luckily, he was granted a hardship waiver that allowed him to play in 2013, and it turned out be his healthiest yet. He started 10 of 11 games (missing two due to an arm injury again) and picked off three passes while recording 26 tackles and breaking up 13 passes. Now Goodson heads into his first NFL season looking to stay healthy and make plays at the next level.
I never been a guy to quit, or think bad thoughts about anything so I just rolled with the punches and like I said, I’ve always been blessed. I’ve always been patient. I’ve always had to work for what I’ve got.
I practice how I play. Just through my whole life, I love to play.