By Dave Morrison

COAL CITY – Independence rising junior Atticus Goodson didn’t have great expectations when he arrived for the start of football practice last season.

“Not playing football for about three years, coming into it I was just expecting to sit the bench all year,” Goodson said. “At the beginning of the year I was the fourth string running back.”

He is the perfect example of the saying “it’s not where you start, but where you finish.”

Goodson finished as captain of the Class AA all-state second-team offense, generally meaning he was highly considered for a first-team spot.

With good reason.

Goodson finished with 1,767 yards rushing and 19 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored 192 points, which was tops in the area.

All of which doesn’t seem to phase Goodson, who is also a top baseball player.

“He’s pretty level-headed,” coach John H. Lilly said. “He can get all the publicity in the world and it just doesn’t bother him. He handles that stuff very well.”

So, Goodson started at the bottom, now he is here, as one of the elite players with two seasons to play.

Lilly recalls him coming out for football. And he knew right away he had a player but the coach wanted his star to earn it.

“A lot of kids who are very talented don’t want to do that anymore,” Lilly said. “They want to start at the top. I made him start at the bottom and work his way up and he handled it very well. I think that’s why the transition was so smooth.”

He can do a myriad of things on the football field.

In fact, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound bruising runner had his first 100-yard receiving game in the same game he had his first 100-yard rushing game, the season opener against Midland Trail, when he had 103 yards rushing and a touchdown and four catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.

He followed it up with 238 yards and four touchdowns and caught five passes for 112 yards and a score.

He had 13 of his 19 receptions for 297 yards and all three touchdowns in the first three games. By then his importance in the run game became paramount, other receivers stepped up for quarterback Phillip Spurlock, who also progressed in the offense for 6-4 Independence.

His dominance in the receiving game should not be dismissed.

“Honestly, he is probably a better receiver than he is a running back,” Lilly said. “It’s been a dead period in college and none of the college coaches have actively been doing anything, but the ones that we’ve talked to really like him because of his hands,” Lilly said. “He may grow into something on the next level  that he will be catching the ball more than he is running it. But right now he is a load to bring down at 6-1, 215.”

Receiving was always his goal early on.

“I’ve always ran routes around my house and stuff just messing around and I really liked wide receiver,” Goodson said. “That’s actually wanted to be growing up. I’ve just practiced my footwork and I think where I can run and jump helps.”

Goodson said his ascent up the depth chart was attained by keeping things simple.

“I just ran hard, wasn’t afraid of anybody and tried to earn a spot,” Goodson said.

Goodson is likely to end up playing baseball at the next level, but nothing is etched in stone. He said the football door is still open.

The rising junior said it hurt not being able to play his sophomore season due to the coronavirus. One of his high school teammates, Michael McKinney, recently signed with Division 1 North Carolina State.

“I grew up playing baseball and I always loved it,” Goodson said. “It was really tough to miss the whole season, it hurt a lot of things.”

Goodson has some showcases ahead when he hopes to open some eyes.

Until then, he’s looking forward to football.

It means a lot and it’s always fun to look at the numbers I put up and surprise myself,” Goodson said “I can’t wait to do it again.”

The Patriots now open the season Sept. 4 hosting PikeView on their freshly astroturfed field.