By Nick Shook
April 1 marked the first day of spring practice.
It was warm, sunny and full of optimism, as many opening spring practices are.
On the sideline stood Kent State basketball forward Darren Goodson, dressed in sweats and not participating—but he was there.
This was no April Fools’ joke. Goodson isn’t there to just observe. He’s playing football.
The senior-college transfer can’t participate in spring practice due to his conflicting class schedule, but he’s still present for pre-practice meetings, and he’s preparing to take the football field for the first time as a Golden Flash come summer preseason practice.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Where’s his basketball coach? Isn’t he upset and/or worried about Goodson getting hurt?”
Well, Kent State head basketball coach Rob Senderoff already signed off on it, and it’s at least somewhat likely that he was OK with it simply because Goodson is out of basketball eligibility. With his transfer from Pensacola State College (Fla.) coming before the 2012-13 basketball season, he still has one more semester of football eligibility left.
Darren Goodson. Why does that name sound familiar?
This might be why.
Though Goodson was the star of the win over Akron, he actually struggled through a good portion of the 2013-14 season. At one point, he was benched for sophomore Chris Ortiz. When he re-entered the starting lineup, his play eventually improved, but he was still the somewhat-lumbering forward who played more like a guard and tended to hold onto the ball a bit too long in Senderoff’s offense.
The Flashes’ season ended with a loss at Miami in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. With that came the end of Goodson’s college basketball career, as Goodson played two seasons in junior college prior to his two at Kent State.
At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Goodson has the body type to thrive on the gridiron. In fact, he always looked like a linebacker playing basketball when on the parquet floor inside the Memorial Athletic Convocation Center.
Flashes football coach Paul Haynes says Thursday that Goodson will play tight end when he joins practice in preseason camp. Although Kent State’s second-year coach will always welcome an addition that will improve his team, he still needed to do his due diligence.
“It was right after their season ended,” Haynes says. “I got a call from someone and I said ‘Well, make sure he talks with Rob [Senderoff] first and see if it’s something that they’re OK with.’ Rob sent me a text and said he’s 100 percent for it. … It will give him an opportunity to finish his degree too, so there’s a lot going into it.”
Former Flashes forward Pat Jackson considered playing football, but was sternly advised against doing so while at Kent State. He soon left to play basketball as a graduate student at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., and is now out of sports altogether.
The last time a Kent State basketball player switched to football, he became a perennial NFL All-Pro—also at tight end. That man, Antonio Gates, was one of the stars of the Flashes’ 2002-03 basketball squad that reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament and is still remembered to this day with a banner in the Memorial Athletic Convocation Center rafters. He joined the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent and has put up a career worthy of Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration.
That’s not to say that Goodson will garner All-Conference honors in his first and only season on the Dix Stadium field. But he could make a positive impact on the squad that needs some help offensively.
“You never know,” Haynes says with a smile. “He was a football player before. He played for Doc Gamble at [Cincinnati] Withrow [High School] and Doc scared him away from football, so we’ve just got to keep him away from Doc.
“He’s a big kid, he’s got great hands, but we’ll see. I told him, ‘Once you come out, you’re not quitting’ and he said he doesn’t want to, so we’ll see what happens.”