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49ers' Marquise Goodwin honors coach who 'helped save my life'

marquise.jpg
Photo courtesy of Marquise Goodwin

49ers' Marquise Goodwin honors coach who 'helped save my life'

A woman sat outside the football field, intently watching the team get paced through an early season practice. When the workout concluded, she waited for an opportune time to approach the coach.

She proceeded to hand him a letter. All she asked was for him to read what she had written.

That is how Marquise Goodwin landed a spot on Richard McCroan’s seventh-grade football team at Coyle Middle School in Rowlett, Texas. And that was the beginning of a student-coach relationship that has greatly enriched both individuals.

“I grew up with no father, unfortunately,” Goodwin said. “But I’ve been fortunate to have men like coach McCroan in my life that cared so much about me and wanted to see me succeed. Having him around was awesome. Whether I needed to talk to him about guy stuff or school or sports or anything, he would always make sure I was taken care of.”

Goodwin chose to honor McCroan for the Fifth Annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards, in which some of the top Bay Area professional athletes celebrate the influence coaches had on their lives and their communities.

“Coach McCroan helped change my life. He helped save my life,” Goodwin said. “That’s why I’m honoring him.”

McCroan vividly recalls the circumstances surrounding his 2002 introduction to Goodwin, whose mother, Tamina, went to great lengths to help her son get involved in sports and get acclimated to a school in which he had no friends.

“It was a little bit of a quandary because we had already started practice, we’d already concluded our cuts," McCroan said. "We’d already gotten into the program and it was not usual to add a kid that late into the season.

“After I read the letter Marquise’s mother gave me, I knew they had been in some sort of duress and they had to move there for some bad reasons. And my first thought was, it wasn’t his fault. I found him and said, ‘Anybody whose mother loves you as much as she does, I’m going to let you play.’ ”

Goodwin is now a six-year NFL veteran who just concluded his second season as a wide receiver with the 49ers. He also won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the long jump and competed in the London Olympics.

The road to dual-sport success has not been easy. Goodwin was raised by a single mom, and his sister, Deja, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. As Goodwin was growing up in Texas, the family moved repeatedly as part of the section 8 housing program. Last offseason, Goodwin bought a house for his mother and sister.

McCroan said he could immediately tell Goodwin was a unique individual -- both in his physical skills and the way he approached athletics. After one season with Goodwin at the middle school, McCroan took a job at Rowlett High School. He would coach Goodwin for all four years of high school.

“You definitely knew coach McCroan was in charge,” Goodwin said. “He’s not a yeller. He’s not going to come down hard on anybody. But he’s straight-forward. He tells you what you need to know, and you know exactly where he stands coming out of every situation.

“He’s meant a lot to me. He definitely opened up a lot of doors.”

When Goodwin earned a scholarship to the University of Texas, McCroan helped him move his belongings to Austin. In college, Goodwin thrived in football and track. The Buffalo Bills selected him in the third round of the 2013 draft.

“Marquise as an athlete has never been much on my mind,” McCroan said. “Marquise as a young man with class and character and dignity and handling himself right and having a vision for how he wanted to conduct himself, that’s what he and I have always been about.

“Marquise needs no validation as an athlete. Marquise needs validation as a young man. So that’s where I felt I could serve him best.”

Goodwin said McCroan instilled a work ethic to never take anything for granted.

“We were realistic,” he said. “He didn't gas me up and say, ‘Hey, son, you’re going to be in the NFL one day’ or ‘You’re going to be in the Olympics one day.’ He said, 'You have great potential to continue your career in football or track or whatever you decide. And you can be successful in anything you do.' ”

McCroan is proud of what that young man has overcome to become the person he is today.

Said McCroan, "Marquise is empathic to people. He nurtures people around him. He lifts people up around him. And that’s pretty tough for a guy to do who doesn’t have that same type of background as a youth."

The Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards presented by Levi’s will air Sunday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

49ers' Raheem Mostert was NFL's third-most explosive runner in 2019

We know 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is a supreme athlete. How supreme? Well, last season, he was the third-most explosive ball-carrier in the NFL.

NFL.com's Nick Shook has been taking some deep dives into "Next Gen Stats" throughout the last few weeks, and on Wednesday, he delved into the most explosive runners the league has to offer. In order to do so, he had to establish some criteria.

In order to qualify for the top 10 most explosive runners from last season, each player had to attempt a minimum of 100 carries, at least 20 of which went for 10-or-more yards. Then, to determine the hierarchy, the percentage of runs in which they reached 15 mph or faster was the defining factor. Once the numbers were crunched, it painted Mostert in some astonishing light.

Last season, Mostert reached 15 mph or faster on an amazing 28.5 percent of his touches, which was the third-highest rate in the league behind Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. To further that, he reached at least 20 mph on four rush attempts, a benchmark equaled by only seven other players; Mostert accomplished the feat with fewer total carries than any of them.

In fact, Mostert's average speed of 13.75 mph per touch ranked first among all running backs who had at least 100 touches last season. That's blazing fast. If that number is difficult to believe, well, just turn on the tape of the NFC Championship Game, in which Mostert accounted for four touchdowns and 226 yards from scrimmage on 31 total touches. I guarantee you the Green Bay Packers believe it.

[RELATED: 49ers' Mostert looks forward to running behind Williams]

Mostert seemed to pick up momentum as the season wore on, and projects to have a much bigger role in San Francisco's offense in 2020. His explosiveness is a tremendous fit for coach Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, and there is every reason to believe the 49ers will be even more potent on that side of the ball in the season ahead.

If he stays healthy, Mostert should blow his previous career-high for touches in a season out of the water. If that's the case, well, good luck catching up to him.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Charlie Woerner draws Rob Gronkowski comparison from high school coach

49ers' Charlie Woerner draws Rob Gronkowski comparison from high school coach

Charlie Woerner didn't catch the ball much at Georgia, but the rookie tight end could have a lot more passes come his way with the 49ers.

The Athletic's David Lombardi examined Woerner's potential fit within coach Kyle Shanahan's offense in a feature story Monday, noting that the 2020 sixth-round pick's athleticism could allow him to benefit from the attention opposing defenses pay to the 49ers' other weapons on offense. Woerner caught just 34 passes for 376 yards (and one touchdown) in four years at Georgia, but his high school coach said the tight end is capable of reaching much higher heights as a pro.

“Charlie is a tremendous athlete,” former Raburn County High School coach Lee Shaw told Lombardi. “He’s a diamond in the rough when it comes to developing into what I feel like can be another (Rob) Gronkowski-type player for somebody in the league, which looks like it’s gonna be the 49ers.”

Gronkowski, who came out of retirement this offseason to join former New England Patriots teammate Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a far more prolific collegiate pass-catcher than Woerner. He caught 75 passes for 1,197 yards in two seasons at Arizona, scoring 16 touchdowns during that time and earning third-team AP All-American honors in 2008.

Woerner's limited involvement in Georgia's passing game wasn't for a lack of skill, according to his quarterback. Buffalo Bills draftee Jake Fromm played with Woerner for three seasons, and he told Lombardi the Bulldogs chose to mostly rely on Woerner's blocking prowess.

“I would say Charlie, he definitely got used more as a blocker, but that wasn’t because of anything Charlie couldn’t do,” Fromm said. “That was a lot more because of scheme and the way we were approaching the games. Charlie’s definitely more than capable of going out and making plays, running routes, catching balls -- whatever you need to do, he’s more than capable.”

[RELATED: Why Warner, Greenlaw are so important to 49ers' elite defense]

George Kittle didn't have extensive pass-catching experience at Iowa, but he has become one of the NFL's best tight ends under Shanahan's tutelage. Lombardi noted that Woerner isn't as explosive as Kittle, but the 49ers can utilize the rookie's athleticism.

If Woerner's high school coach is to be believed, they could potentially rely on the rookie for more than that.