March 31, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Offensive linemen aren't always remembered, unless they are guilty of a crucial penalty in a big game. Former Gamecock Na'Shan Goddard is just fine without the recognition. He had an outstanding career for South Carolina from 2001 through 2005 and also has a pair of Super Bowl rings to his credit.
"I don't usually wear them to work, but I definitely wear them to job interviews," Goddard laughed. "I like to show them to kids when I'm talking to them to let them know that dreams can come true when you work really hard. I was very blessed to get two Super Bowl rings."
Originally recruited to South Carolina during Lou Holtz's time as head coach, he played his final year under Steve Spurrier in 2005 during the Head Ball Coach's first year in Columbia. Goddard earned SEC All-Freshman team and Freshman All-American honors in 2002. He takes pride in being part of the program that laid the groundwork for higher expectations, starting early in his career with South Carolina's second straight Outback Bowl victory over Ohio State during his red-shirt season, and following that up with milestone victories as a senior.
"2005 was memorable for me because that was my first time beating Florida and Tennessee, and we also beat Arkansas for the second year in a row," Goddard said. "That was a pretty big deal for us. It just showed coach Spurrier's confidence in us and in himself to let South Carolinians know that those programs weren't better than us. That's evident now as his teams aren't scared of anybody."
He sees those wins early in Spurrier's tenure as potential factors for keeping some of the future in-state talent to choose South Carolina instead of going out of state. Goddard is quick to compare that success to the success women's basketball is currently having under Dawn Staley, having won back to back SEC championships and reaching the NCAA Tournament four years in a row.
"You have girls now from South Carolina who realize they can win here instead of having to go up to places like Connecticut and freezing during the winter," Goddard said. "That's what we were trying to do with football back then."
Although he only played under Spurrier for one season, he has a lot of good memories of the current Gamecock coach.
"We wanted to pick him up after we beat Florida," Goddard said. "We hadn't had the rich history that Florida did, and it was a big deal to us. We wanted to carry him off, but he was trying to tell us to save that for a bigger game. He sort of downplayed it because he has won so many big games."
2005 was memorable for me because that was my first time beating Florida and Tennessee, and we also beat Arkansas for the second year in a row. That was a pretty big deal for us. It just showed coach Spurrier's confidence in us and in himself to let South Carolinians know that those programs weren't better than us.
Goddard is also appreciative that his former coach has good memories of him.
"What is amazing to me now is how he remembers everything," Goddard said. "Every time I walk by him now, he will always say how I helped win the Tennessee game. We gave up a sack and the ball was just lying in the end zone where we could have given up a safety. I picked the ball up and ran it out for four or five yards. We ended up winning by one point, so he always says 'if you hadn't run it out of there, we would have lost.' I just like the fact that he remembers an offensive lineman's contribution the same way he remembers Sidney Rice scoring touchdowns. Linemen are usually only remembered when we jump offsides or hold somebody."
Goddard grew up in Big 10 country in Ohio, but a visit to the Columbia campus and the chance to play in the SEC made it easy to come to South Carolina.
"I came down for the spring game to look at the campus and it was 70 degrees and gorgeous, and it was freezing back home," Goddard said. "South Carolina had just defeated Ohio State in the Outback Bowl for the first time. The whole environment was unbelievable. Lou Holtz came to my house and gave my mom one of his great speeches. Next thing I know, I'm on a plane for South Carolina. Ryan Brewer was a rock star in my area, and he was already at South Carolina. That gave South Carolina a lot of notoriety."
When his collegiate career ended, Goddard signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants. He was there for three years, then had a brief stint with the New York Jets, before being traded back to the Giants. He later played with Seattle and closed out his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints. He earned a Super Bowl ring with the Giants in 2008 and another ring with the Saints in 2010. His career wasn't always glamorous as he spent a lot of time on NFL practice squads trying to make the game day roster each year.
"You're probably working harder than everyone else when you're on the practice squad," Goddard said. "When you're on the practice squad you might be asked to do some offensive scout team work and then go to the other side and do some defensive team work. You also have to do the special teams scout team. You're out there all practice long trying to give the starters a real good look. You're going all out and sometimes the active guys don't like it when you're going so hard, but hey, I'm trying to make the roster. You're doing that for three and half days per week and the other days you're lifting weights and just trying to be ready when your number is called."
The uncertainty of where he might be was stressful at times.
"Those guys on the practice squad are pretty expendable where we can be cut, released or traded anywhere," Goddard said. "So my wife and I had to move around a little bit. I had a tryout on my wife's birthday one year. Guys who are drafted in the first round are looking to buy houses and cars, but for guys like me, I didn't know if I was going to be here tomorrow."
When the Giants did call his number for the active roster, he knew he was being appreciated.
"They were good," Goddard said. "I think that offensive line had set an NFL record for most consecutive starts together. I was OK with being on the practice squad there. Then they put me on the active roster eventually. To be rewarded for your efforts was a really good feeling. They respected how hard I had worked."
After stints with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints, Goddard played a couple of years in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders.
"It was a lot different in the CFL because they pretty much have guaranteed contracts," Goddard said. "So that was a lot less stressful. I didn't know how crazy football was up there. Their fans were awesome."
Having recently retired, Goddard and his wife, Stacey, along with their two sons are back in Columbia where they enjoy family outings at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"We went to the best game of the year last season - the Georgia game," Goddard said. "That game was unbelievable. We sat in the rain, but we enjoyed it."
Goddard is looking forward to coming back to campus during the weekend of the spring game April 10-12 as part of a Steve Spurrier era players' reunion.
"I keep up with most of the guys from when I played, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing the guys I don't know," Goddard said. "I want to meet those young guys who are so good. I would love to see those guys who really put South Carolina on the map the last few years. I've enjoyed cheering for those guys. I'd like to just talk some football and just life in general with them."
Goddard isn't shy, but perhaps his two Super Bowl rings can be a nice conversation starter.
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