Northeast Times

My lifelong friend's view of Paterno's team

An­drew Good­man (kneel­ing, second from left) soaks in one fi­nal mo­ment with his seni­or class­mates be­fore more than 100,000 fans at Beaver Sta­di­um in State Col­lege, Pa. (Photo Cour­tesy An­drew Good­man/The Good­man Fam­ily)

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I was there when he got the call from Penn State de­fens­ive foot­ball coach Ron Van­der­linden. I was there the first time he ran out of the tun­nel at Beaver Sta­di­um. I was there when he wanted to quit. I was there nearly every time someone asked him, “Did you play yet?” And I was there when he gradu­ated from Penn State.

I was there for his first slee­p­over, his first beer, his first car ac­ci­dent and his first kiss. I was there, shar­ing the base­ball dia­mond and bas­ket­ball back­court with him at George Wash­ing­ton High School. I was there (in the stands, of course) when he set a Phil­adelphia High School Pub­lic League Cham­pi­on­ship game re­cord for most re­ceiv­ing yards.

He is my lifelong friend, former Wash­ing­ton three-sport All-Pub­lic ath­lete — and now re­cently gradu­ated Penn State walk-on wide re­ceiv­er — An­drew Good­man. Good­man, 22, and I, have been linked to­geth­er our en­tire lives. We gradu­ated from pre-school, George Wash­ing­ton High School and Penn State’s Smeal Col­lege of Busi­ness at to­geth­er.

The found­a­tion of our friend­ship began when play­ing sports with the Bustleton Bengals at the age of five. We played hockey, bas­ket­ball, soc­cer and base­ball — one sport for each sea­son. Our fath­ers coached to­geth­er to guar­an­tee that we would play on the same team. And as a young­ster, I was al­ways the bet­ter ath­lete.

As we transitioned to high school, while I held my own on the bas­ket­ball court, Good­man quickly be­came re­cog­nized as the bet­ter ath­lete. There was no de­bate. He was an All-Pub­lic ath­lete in foot­ball, bas­ket­ball and base­ball. His pas­sion, though, was foot­ball, where he be­came one of Wash­ing­ton’s all-time lead­ing re­ceiv­ers. He caught three balls for a Pub­lic-League cham­pi­on­ship game re­cord 122 yards in 2007, help­ing GW to a 34-6 win over Bok.

Good­man took his foot­ball tal­ents to the next level in the sum­mer of 2008, and em­barked on a jour­ney that would change his life forever. That jour­ney was a four-year ca­reer at Penn State. He was an in­vited walk-on wide re­ceiv­er for the Nit­tany Lions foot­ball pro­gram un­der ar­gu­ably the most in­flu­en­tial col­legi­ate foot­ball coach ever — Joe Pa­ter­no.

I, too, began my un­der­gradu­ate ca­reer at Penn State that sum­mer. Thanks to Good­man, I did not go to Penn State as just an­oth­er stu­dent. I went as the friend of a Nit­tany Lions wide re­ceiv­er.

Earli­er that sum­mer when the foot­ball workouts began, Good­man began to second-guess his de­cision to put his body through the wringer day in and day out, only to be con­sidered a lowly prac­tice play­er, a glor­i­fied tack­ling dummy.

“When I first got there, I was thrown to the wolves as a young cub,” Good­man said. “There’s no in­tro course to get you ready. It was just the sum­mer workouts. As a three-sport ath­lete in high school, I didn’t lift weights or con­di­tion, like these guys did. We had in­tense runs and lifts start­ing at 6 a.m. I was in shock. I was about to quit, think­ing it was way too tough for me.”

After some words of wis­dom from his friends and par­ents, Good­man de­cided to stick with foot­ball. Even though he nev­er played more than a few downs over the next four sea­sons, the de­cision turned out to be the best one of his life.

Dur­ing his time at Penn State, Good­man ex­per­i­enced things no one could ima­gine. The pin­nacle was run­ning out of the tun­nel be­hind Pa­ter­no and in front of more than 100,000 scream­ing, white-clad fans in Happy Val­ley.

“It’s something words can’t ex­plain,” he said. “The feel­ing of run­ning out of the tun­nel with your broth­ers to go to war is something you have to ex­per­i­ence to fully cap­ture the mo­ment. There is noth­ing more mean­ing­ful than be­ing able to say I played foot­ball for Joe Pa­ter­no. He is and will al­ways be the most in­flu­en­tial col­lege coach in his­tory.”

In his fresh­man sea­son, Good­man ex­per­i­enced a Big Ten cham­pi­on­ship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, both of which were hard to fathom as an 18-year-old fresh­man.

“I didn’t real­ize how spe­cial that sea­son was un­til I was a seni­or,” Good­man said. “That sea­son, we were a field goal away from the Na­tion­al Cham­pi­on­ship. I’d be at prac­tice, and look around at fu­ture NFL play­ers every­where. There was a feel­ing of suc­cess in that lock­er room that I will nev­er for­get.”

He saw firsthand how Penn State handled one of the biggest off-the-field scan­dals in NCAA his­tory.

“No oth­er team will ever have to go through something like our team did this past sea­son,” Good­man said, re­fer­ring to Pa­ter­no’s sud­den fir­ing in Novem­ber and down­fall amid the Jerry San­dusky child-sex ab­use case. “Every­one was watch­ing, just wait­ing for us to slip up. We were highly scru­tin­ized as the world was watch­ing. But to be hon­est, this team was the per­fect group of guys to handle a situ­ation like this. We had a strong bond and be­came really close in the last four to five years to­geth­er. We didn’t think about the scan­dal…we just played foot­ball.”

Good­man wit­nessed how the pro­gram, the team, the school and the Penn State com­munity in gen­er­al dealt with the death of the le­gendary Pa­ter­no, who passed away from lung can­cer just two months after the uni­versity trust­ees fired him for not do­ing more when he heard of San­dusky’s ab­use of a boy in a Penn State lock­er room shower.

“Joe Pa­ter­no is and will al­ways be Penn State Foot­ball,” Good­man said. “The Grand Ex­per­i­ment was win­ning foot­ball games and ex­cel­ling in the classroom. That’s what he preached to us.”

But more im­port­ant than any game or prac­tice was the re­la­tion­ships that Good­man built with his team­mates.

“The biggest take away from the foot­ball pro­gram, be­sides all of the les­sons learned, was the friend­ships and bonds I’ve made,” he said. “Team­mates will do any­thing for each oth­er. And I know I have 100 guys that I can count on for the rest of my life. These bonds are price­less and ever­last­ing.”

Now, Good­man is of­fi­cially done play­ing foot­ball, done play­ing sports al­to­geth­er, for that mat­ter. In­stead, he will take his de­gree from Penn State, his foot­ball stor­ies, his Big Ten Cham­pi­on­ship ring, his Rose Bowl jer­sey and a life­time of memor­ies to Wayne, N.J., where he will be­gin work for Toys R Us. He will enter the work­force just like every­one else fresh out of col­lege — young, eager and mo­tiv­ated to suc­ceed.

As for my­self, I’ve star­ted my own ca­reer at Sports­ra­dio 94WIP back home in Phil­adelphia. For the first time in our lives, Good­man and I won’t be liv­ing in the same town. And for the first time in three years, we won’t be liv­ing un­der the same roof. But make no mis­take about it, a 90-mile geo­graphy gap isn’t go­ing to af­fect two dec­ades of friend­ship with ever­last­ing stor­ies and memor­ies that have changed both of our lives forever. ull;•

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You can reach at andrew.porter@cbsradio.com.

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