Aug. 29, 1999
by Katie Wehby
Some football players just have names that sound like they fit the sport.
Take Notre Dame senior fullback Joey Goodspeed for instance. What coach wouldn’t want to have a player on his team that has “goodspeed.” He name is so intriguing that Street & Smith’s annual football yearbook named him to its all-name team in 1997.
But, the native of Montgomery, Ill, has much more than a slick last name going for him.
After spending the first three years of his college football career as a second-teamer, Goodspeed enters the ’99 season in a dogfight for the starting fullback job and will be a leader on the Irish offense.
With the absence of Jamie Spencer, it is Goodspeed’s turn to take center stage and lead the Irish in the backfield as he is the only senior running back this year.
“This is a different role and it is time for me to step up and become a leader,” says Goodspeed. “This is different, but I am getting used to it. I am not a real vocal leader. I like to lead by example.”
With Goodspeed as the starting fullback and an offense led by senior quarterback and team captain Jarious Jackson, this is definitely a formula for success.
“I like the offense with Jarious,” says Goodspeed. “With the scheme on offense, they are using the fullback more. We play more of an important role and hopefully we will be getting the ball more.
“I know if a running back doesn’t block well here, then he won’t play.”
While his focus may be blocking and scoring touchdowns, he also is thinking ahead about what might be after Notre Dame. A career is definitely in his future ? whether it be on the football field or in the business office, he will excel past his time at Notre Dame.
“I am not putting all my eggs in one basket,” says Goodspeed. “If the NFL happens, it happens. If not, then I have my management degree.”
Goodspeed was a highly recruited player out of Oswego High School, as he had great ability to dominate the action on both the offensive and defensive ends.
When Notre Dame first approached him about attending the school, Goodspeed was taken back.
“I was intimidated by Notre Dame at first,” says Goodspeed. “It is the Mecca of all college schools and I didn’t take it seriously when I received letters from them. After I made an official visit, I felt at home and thought ‘Why can’t I play here?’ It was the best of everything, because it has academics and football.”
Goodspeed’s arrival on campus in the fall of 1996 forced the Irish coaches into deciding which side of the ball the talented player would see action. Goodspeed, who was fundamentally sound at both positions, wanted the opportunity to play linebacker, but primarily he just wanted to play for Notre Dame.
“I loved linebacker in high school,” says Goodspeed. “I felt that was the position I was going to excel in as a player.”
The coaches realized his talents on both sides of the ball and eventually decided his talents could be best used at fullback.
“It was confusing as to which one I wanted to play,” says Goodspeed. “I just wanted to help the team any way I could. I didn’t have a problem learning plays, because that comes naturally to me. I got used to playing fullback and the fame of carrying the ball and eventually getting touchdowns. I liked that, but at linebacker, I liked hitting people. I was tired of getting hit, and I wanted to deliver some blows.”
While there may have been confusion as to where Goodspeed would contribute to the team, there was no doubt that he would contribute.
As a freshman, Goodspeed played backup to Marc Edwards in 10 games and despite a neck injury at the end of the year, he thought his freshman year was a successful one.
“Watching Marc and the way he played and handled himself was very helpful,” says Goodspeed. “I learned what it takes to be a Notre Dame football player.”
Goodspeed looked to return in his sophomore year as one of the candidates for starting fullback. He settled into the No. 2 spot behind Jamie Spencer and then suffered a separated shoulder in the third game of the season against Michigan State.
When he returned to the field, there were once again questions about what role he would fill on the team. After about four weeks, the coaching staff decided to switch him to defense and try him out at linebacker. He then reinjured the shoulder, causing him to miss the rest of the season.
The injury factor has played a major role in Goodspeed’s life at Notre Dame, both physically and mentally.
His neck injury at the end of his freshman season set him back in training and in his mental attitude.
“It was hard mentally more than physically, because you’re not really sure if your neck or shoulder is going to hold up,” says Goodspeed. “You’re hesitant of just going in there and hitting as hard as you can. I still think about it every now and then if I am going to hurt my shoulder in this play.”
With the return of Goodspeed from his shoulder injury for his junior season in 1998 came his return to the offensive side of the ball. As Goodspeed entered the year, it appeared to be promising as he shared the fullback responsibility with Spencer.
With a great start against Michigan in the opening game of the season, where he had nine carries for 43 yards, Goodspeed showed that he could handle the pressure and proved that he could play top level ball. Later in the season, he rushed for 109 yards on four carries against Arizona State, which included a 60-yard run from scrimmage, the longest by an Irish player during the season. Goodspeed was the ABC Sports/Chevrolet Notre Dame MVP for the game.
“I felt that in the Michigan and Arizona State games that I showed what I could do, and now it is a matter of being consistent in that performance,” says Goodspeed as he heads into the ’99 season. “I feel the more I get to prove myself the more I will.”