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

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 veterans offer Super Bowl newbies advice: Just say no


49ers veterans offer Super Bowl newbies advice: Just say no

The same 49ers veterans have taken the podium each week during this exemplary playoff run and they’ve been asked the same question every week.

How does playoff experience help while advancing through the postseason? What advice can you give young pups going through it for the first time?

We’re at the point now where we can substitute “Super Bowl” for “playoffs” in the experience question.

This time, however, it matters just a little more. Here’s why: The game’s still the same, save longer in-game commercial breaks and more pre-game media attention. Like, lots more.

Players can handle all that. Say nothing into the microphone a half hour a day, hole up in the hotel and get prepped for the championship bout.

The biggest change, however, may come from family and friends and long-lost cousins and acquaintances who somehow tracked down your real cell number. They all wanted tickets and party invites during what will be an insane week building up to Super Bowl LIV between the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.

That’s why guys with Super Bowl preach an important lesson everyone learned way back when from a D.A.R.E. officer.

Just say no.

Or, you know, find someone else who can.

“Something I can really draw from that is just how chaotic it is when you get down there,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “I’ve been telling a lot of the younger guys what to expect and make sure the distractions that come with that game are not so much the game, but they're like all of a sudden you have 20 family members down there, everybody wants to have an experience.

“It’s important to manage all that, making sure you have someone, like I tell my mom and my wife, hey you're going to be the ‘no’ person. We're going to have a set dinner we'll go to, but this is a business trip for me. I tell a lot of the guys the same thing, is to manage their expectations of your family, what you're supposed to do down there and really focus on the game.”

The 49ers made a concerted effort to get ticket requests and family arrangements done this week, during a bye before the 49ers leave for Miami on Sunday. They wanted to put all that in the rear view and focus on the game plan, which is being dispenses this week so there will be less stress during an already taxing week in South Florida.

“Prepare all week like you're getting ready to play a game on Sunday because if you don't, by the time we get out to Miami, it's going to be chaos,” said 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, heading to his third Super Bowl. “We've got Media Day. We've got all kind of obligations. It's not going to be like a regular schedule that we are used to in terms of getting off of work, going home, hanging out at home. It's going to be- you're going to be pulled left and right in terms of different obligations that you've got to do. You've got to handle all that.”

[RELATED: 49ers excited to install Super Bowl 54 game plan on practice field]

We’ll hear plenty about it being just another game, but there are pinch me moments along the way. Staley experienced one during his previous Super Bowl, when the 49ers and Ravens squared off in the Harbaugh Bowl.

“You go out there for pregame warmups, and that was the only time for me that I actually felt like, just because there's so many people around, you realize in that moment that you're playing in the Super Bowl,” Staley said. “And I think too just embrace that understand you're playing in a game, but it's also something you've been doing your entire life, you've prepared for this moment. I think that's something you can really fall back on is just the preparation and understanding what you're going into and accepting it and going forward, but once the whistle blows and you play the first snap, everything is just the same old.”

How 49ers intend to gain greater East Bay foothold with Raiders in Las Vegas


How 49ers intend to gain greater East Bay foothold with Raiders in Las Vegas

The 49ers have moved on to Super Bowl LIV. The Raiders have moved on to Las Vegas.

Regardless of which (former) Bay Area NFL team you root for, it's been an eventful week for that franchise. San Francisco sits one win away from its sixth Lombardi Trophy. While Oakland ... err Vegas ... officially changed residences.

Many Raiders fans will follow the team to Sin City, whether through in-person support or from afar. But certainly, there will be others who change allegiances or simply stop watching the NFL altogether, as a result of the pain from watching their hometown team depart for purported greener pastures.

The 49ers are sitting pretty regardless, but with the Raiders now officially out of the region, they're in a position to capitalize even further.

Success breeds fan interest, and as the NFL's surprise team this season, the 49ers have been riding a wave of increased fan support during their path to Super Bowl LIV. A large portion of that increase has emanated from the East Bay, and as The New York Times' Ken Belson reported prior to the 49ers' 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco has plans to gain an even greater foothold in the region with the Raiders now operating elsewhere.

"We would never try to convert Raiders fans,” 49ers chief marketing officer Alex Chang told Belson. "It’s a multigenerational play here for people who are transplants or kids who are growing up here now and won’t have the Raiders."

As part of San Francisco's efforts to establish a greater presence in the East Bay, the 49ers intend to expand their number of charities and free flag football programs in the region and to invite more East Bay school children to their science and technology programs. For obvious reasons, there is a clear focus on the younger audience, but San Francisco isn't necessarily trying to change their loyalties.

"We want kids to be 49ers fans," 49ers chief administrative officer Hannah Gordon said, "but it’s not like we want someone not to be a Raiders fan."

As the 49ers go about this expansion effort, the organization can look to its next opponent for proof that it can be accomplished. As Belson noted, the Kansas City Chiefs have been very successful in converting former fans of the St. Louis Rams, who left for Los Angeles in 2016. While the fan anger might not ever entirely subside, Chiefs president Mark Donovan told Belson that ticket sales and sponsorship from the St. Louis region remain on the rise.

While the Raiders have dominated fan support in the East Bay throughout their time in Oakland, their constant flirting with the idea of leaving combined with San Francisco's recent success has resulted in a major shift this season. Belson noted that, according to Fanatics, 49ers merchandise sales in the East Bay have increased by 250 percent compared to last year.

[RELATED: Five moments that defined 49ers' journey to Super Bowl LIV]

With the Raiders moving to Las Vegas and the 49ers looking like a team built to contend for many years to come, one can expect that number to increase even further next season.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).