Najee Goode Poised to Seize Opportunity at Combine - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Najee Goode Poised to Seize Opportunity at Combine


Friday morning, Najee Goode embarks on a trip that will go a long way in determining what sort of path he takes to the National Football League.

The former West Virginia University linebacker is heading down to Indianapolis to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine to show professional teams how he fares in a number of drills and in an interview setting with hopes to climb up their respective draft boards.

He has already done just that with an impressive showing at the East-West Shrine Game in Florida back in January.

Every game in his college career, Goode had the chance to go up against talent that would someday compete at the next level. In an all-star game, he faced an entire roster of athletes capable of getting paid for their craft. It was a chance to measure himself against the competition, and he felt he sized up well.

"It built up a lot of confidence within me to play with those guys," says Goode. "I wanted to go out there and be a leader and I successfully got named the defensive captain of the team. Being able to bang with those guys and run with them and keep speed with them – once football gets like that, it's more mental."

Goode knows what it is like to have to impress on a daily basis in order to get his turn on the field.

The Cleveland, Ohio native came to Morgantown as a walk-on and even as he proved himself worthy of a scholarship, he was pushed down on a depth chart that featured more veteran players as starters. Goode basically served as the top reserve at all three linebacker positions.

In his junior year, an injury led to his big break in the starting 11 and he never looked back.

He also never became satisfied, but instead worked to improve each time he set foot on the field or in the weight room, where he was named the team's Iron Mountaineer heading into his senior season.

That desire to reach within himself and find whatever untapped potential may be left is what led to him holding conversations with current NFL players after each practice for the Shrine Game – hoping their honesty would lead to further growth for him as a player.

"I went up to them after practice everyday down there and was like, ‘What's something I've got to work on or what's something that you see I need to do better?'" says Goode.

Whatever the response, he worked at it. First he visualized it for the rest of the night and then he put it to use the following day in practice.

When he came to the Shrine Game, he was hearing that many had him projected anywhere from the sixth round of the draft to an undrafted free agent.

"And then pretty much after the game, I heard fourth or sixth [round] after the week of practice. I was happy to hear that it jumped up and I improved in some of the areas that they didn't know much about me," he says.

Goode takes with him the mindset that regardless of how he makes it to an NFL team, that is just a starting point – an opportunity to seize. But if he can improve his stock that much in a week of all-star competition, why not do the same at an event as select as the Combine?

In recent weeks, Goode has teamed up with the Mountaineers strength and conditioning staff to work at the drills he will face both in Indianapolis as well as at WVU's pro day on March 16 in Morgantown.

Aside from some fellow seniors from the Orange Bowl champion squad, he has been joined by former teammate Chris Neild, who now plays for the Washington Redskins, and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

"He's probably the No. 1 pick and myself and the guys working out here are looking to get drafted and improve our stock – I mean, he is the stock," Goode says of Luck with a laugh. "It's a cool experience and hopefully I get to compete against him or with him."

The two shared stories of each other's BCS bowl games while working toward a bigger individual goal they have approaching. Even if Luck is projected to be the first player chosen in the draft, he is new to the Combine just like Goode. So having a guy like Neild around who has experienced it before was a tremendous help.

"Going into an environment like that – 32 [general managers], 32 coaches and guys who want to talk to you – don't get nervous, don't get anxious to perform," says Goode. "[Neild] said just keep all that in until you actually get to run and jump and bench press."

Neild cautioned Goode that he is about to walk into a meat market where he is sized up by every set of eyes that meet him. Having seen others go through the process before him, Goode believes he knows what will be expected of him and he is confident that five years playing for former WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has prepared him well.

"Right now I'm just trying to be a student of the game and learn from it, learn how the organizations go because it's a lot crazier once you get involved in it," he says.

He will arrive in Indianapolis Friday to get registered and examined and interviewed to start a four-day process that concludes with the workouts on Monday.

Then he comes back to his college campus to finish up work on his degree in Industrial Engineering.

There is no down time for a person with the dreams and aspirations that Goode takes with him into every aspect of his life. But he isn't complaining – he's making the most of it each step of the way.

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