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Goode goes from walk-on to starter for Mountaineers

September 20, 2010
By MICKEY?FURFARI, For The Inter-Mountain

MORGANTOWN - Najee Goode visited both Virginia Tech and Maryland, coming out of Benedictine High School in Cleveland, before deciding to walk on at West Virginia University in 2007.

"I came to West Virginia because one of my coaches told me it was a great place," the 6-foot-1, 238-pound linebacker explained. "I was put on scholarship after being redshirted as a true freshman."

Goode played in all 13 games in both 2008 and 2009, mostly on special teams. Now he has developed into an outstanding linebacker.

He started the Mountaineers' first three games as a junior at the Sam linebacker position. Goode replaced senior standout Pat Lazear, who's sidelined with a lingering leg injury.

"When Pat went down, that left an opportunity for someone else," Goode said. "Of course, I'd like to become a (full-time) starter. But Pat is a great player.

"I think I got better each year. I'm not making as many mistakes. I'm trying to make some plays out there and help this defense."

Goode made a career-high 10 tackles in WVU's 24-21 overtime victory against Marshall in Huntington. A couple of those were in key situations for lost yardage.

One of those came on a shovel pass on the Thundering Herd's first play in OT.

"We had talked about their shovel pass, so I expected it," Goode recalled. "I rushed to nail the receiver for a loss of seven or eight yards. That was huge."

Indeed, it most certainly was. That eventually extended the length of Marshall's 39-yard field goal which sailed slightly wide right.

Coach Bill Stewart said, "I am really happy for Najee. He did a really nice job. That play was great. He has been playing very, very well."

The youngster, who comes from a football family, said he's able to do things correctly in games. "That includes making plays in key situations," he added.

He admittedly learned from the mistakes he had made earlier in his collegiate career. Goode has five starts to his credit.

"I'm pretty comfortable playing defense here," he said. "But I need to play even better. I see things where I can improve: Using my hands and running faster to the ball."

In helping the 22nd-ranked Mountaineers to a 3-0 season's start, Goode has made 14 tackles, including five solo stops. For his career, he shows 37 tackles and one interception.

He is majoring in industrial engineering at WVU.

Goode's father, John, played in the NFL for St. Louis and Philadelphia. A brother, Tariq, played football at Youngstown State and then in the AFL. The other brother, Wakeem, played at Hampton.

Najee started at Benedictine High as both a quarterback and linebacker. He was voted MVP of the Cuyahoga County East-West Charity All-Star Game.



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