Thanks to Pro Football Hall of Famer Mel Blount, C.J. Goodwin from Wheeling Linsly is getting a chance to play pro football. That's all he wants; a chance.
Goodwin, who played just two years of Division II college football, signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a wide receiver in early June after a tryout that was initiated by Blount sending the team tapes of Goodwin. Goodwin played high school football and basketball with Blount's son at Linsly and also worked as a counselor at the Mel Blount Youth Home in Claysville, Pennsylvania.
"Mel Blount called and got me a tryout," said Goodwin. "I tried out a few weeks ago and did pretty well. It wasn't up to my standards though. They must have seen something in me as they signed me."
A basketball, football and track standout at Linsly, Goodwin played college basketball at Bethany for two seasons before transferring to Fairmont State, where he played intramural football and basketball for one year. At the urging of his roommate, Dewey McDonald, who signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, Goodwin went out for the Fairmont gridiron team in 2012. He snagged 24 passes, averaged 18.3 yards per catch and notched five touchdowns for the Falcons.
"I walked on at Fairmont prior to my junior year, and then they offered me a scholarship," said the soft-spoken Goodwin. "I was just having fun playing intramurals."
Goodwin transferred to California State in
California, Pennsylvania, prior to his senior year. Head coach Mike Lopez had been fired following Goodwin's junior season at Fairmont and had moved on to California State as defensive coordinator. The Vulcans didn't throw the ball as much as Fairmont did, but Goodwin still managed to pull in 11 passes for an 11.9 average and one touchdown. Seeing some action on special teams, Goodwin blocked a punt and had four tackles.
Goodwin caught the eye of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin with his crisp cuts and soft hands during minicamp. The Black and Gold will be taking 11 wide receivers to training camp at Latrobe.
"I'm just taking it day by day," said Goodwin. "I could be gone in a day, so I'm just going as hard as I can.
Goodwin paid his own way to the Indianapolis and Detroit regional combines in early spring, hoping to catch the eyes of NFL scouts. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and had a 40-inch vertical jump. Those are very good numbers for a wideout. He ran a 4.41 at Cal State's Pro Day.
"I had a few teams contact me after the combines and try to set something up," Goodwin said. "Pittsburgh was one of the first teams to call me. I couldn't pass up signing with my hometown team."
While the odds may look to be against Goodwin, Steeler fans will remember undrafted free agent Nate Washington from Tiffin University and his standout performance at the Steelers' training camp in 2005. A member of the Super Bowl XL championship team, Washington went on to catch 104 passes for the Steelers from 2006-08 before leaving as a free agent to sign with the Tennessee Titans. Washington caught 58 passes for 919 yards in 2013 at Tennessee and has 371 career catches.
Five former California State Vulcans were on the active rosters of NFL teams last year.
Goodwin, whose given first name is Charaun, will be wearing number 18 for the Steelers.