When Atticus Goodson showed up to Independence football training as a second-year rookie in 2019, he was greeted unceremoniously by placing last on the depths table in the semi-finals.
Like everything else, he took it as a challenge and ran with it.
And in some ways it never stopped.
From the fifth string, running back Goodson rose in the record books, finishing as the school leader in rushing yards (5,292 yards), touchdowns (83 overall and 79 rushing), twice in the first all-star team and earlier this week winner of the Warner Award as the state’s top running back.
After a season in which Goodson amassed 1,907 yards on 182 carries and 29 touchdowns, he ended a busy career by being named the recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Award as the State’s Best Player by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior Independence averaged 190.7 yards per game and 10.5 yards per carry and rarely played in the second half of the Patriots’ first nine games.
But when he needed to carry the load, in the last three games of the season, he was ready, with 80 runs in those games.
He added 776 yards and nine touchdowns in four playoff games.
“We didn’t really know what he could do,” Independence coach John H. Lilly said of Goodson’s early days with the program. “I think he played in the midget league. We knew he was a good athlete. But we didn’t know he was that kind of athlete. Guess it was after the Midland Trail game (when the 2019 season opened) when we said, “Oh, that kid is gonna be special.” And you could just see him growing up on the soccer field in every game this season.
Goodson’s point of view.
“I saw it as a challenge, that I needed to work on to improve myself,” he said.
After running for 103 yards and a touchdown on his 2019 debut against a Trail team that would advance to the Class A semifinals that season, he would hit 200 yards in six of the last nine games of the season and would score 24 more touchdowns.
For the season, he rushed for 1,767 yards and 25 touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 342 yards and three other scores.
He was named captain of the All-State Offensive Class AA Second Team.
In a 2020 season shortened by Covid, Goodson rushed for 1,618 yards and 25 touchdowns and was an All States first team backer.
Four of the top eight players to vote for the Kennedy Award played on the teams that competed for the Class AAA Championship game. Huntington quarterback Gavin Lochow was second and teammate Noah Waynick was fourth. Rarely, Martinsburg brothers Hudson and Murphy (injured before the Bulldogs’ playoff race) Clement finished third and eighth respectively.
Ty Bartrum of Spring Valley was fifth, Jeremiah King of Robert C. Byrd sixth and Gavin Barkley of Berkley Spring seventh.
For Goodson, finding out he won the Kennedy was a great start to the holiday season.
“It’s definitely a great Christmas present,” Goodson said. “This is one of the best I have received.”
He said he would return it for another chance at a state title, with no guarantees on the outcome, after Independence fell to Fairmont 21-12 in the class state title match. AA at Wheeling Island earlier this month.
“One hundred percent just having a state championship under my belt would be the best thing in the world,” he said of the trade. “But that’s pretty good daggone.”
When asked to describe his running style, Goodson said. “I’m running hard. I didn’t think anyone could attack me and if you were in front of me you would challenge me and I was going to make you pay for it.
Questioning himself was Goodson’s form of motivation.
His favorite run of the 445 wears he racked up during his career at Independence mirrors his description.
“It would probably be the one against Nicholas County (in 2020) when I stiffened that kid on the ground,” he said.
Everyone in the Independence program had a Goodson’s favorite moment – the A-Train’s biggest hits – of his stack displacement runs, like the one against Roane County in which he dragged a scrimmage of six or seven. defenders 10 more meters before being stopped (still not tackled, a trait of the runner) to the quick starts which saw him score on the first play of a match on three occasions.
One of his biggest games this year has come on the defensive end of the ball. With extra depth in the program, Goodson didn’t have to play full-time linebacker or defensive back, where he started in 2020. He was, however, inserted in defense against Roane County and he stopped his. compatriot Brier Begley. on the fourth and one after a block has been discarded by a bigger lineman.
“He’s just an athlete,” Lilly said. “He has some of the best hands on our team. I saw him hitting 50-yard baskets in training. Some of our coaches believe he could eventually become an NFL caliber bettor if he worked at it. He can do anything. “
His calling card in the field is physicality. His off-field business card is in front. He is respected for his abilities in the field, appreciated for his behavior after battle.
“I really never heard of an opposing coach who didn’t like him, I really never heard another kid say bad things about him,” Lilly said. “Even in the heat of the moment or after a bad loss, they come to shake hands. He’s a different type of kid and that’s probably what helped him deal with all the hype. He really doesn’t care.
Like most outstanding ball carriers and number producers, Goodson has always gone out of his way to congratulate his offensive linemen.
Given a chance, he expanded the list.
“I’ve said my whole career that I wanted to thank my linemen, but I’m going to thank my linemen and my wide receivers,” Goodson said. “The wide receivers do as much for me as the linemen. The linemen keep (defenders) from getting to me early on, but without the wide receivers blocking the pitch I wouldn’t be going anywhere. So that’s a price for me, the line and the wide receivers. It’s really the whole team. They made it all possible.
Of his 79 career rushing touchdowns, Goodson has won several that totaled over 50 yards.
“We have several videos that we watch at my house of me running around the field and (his brother) Cyrus coming in and hitting someone or Judah (Price) coming in and hitting someone who was about to catch me off guard, or all of them, Cyrus, Trey (Bowers), Judah, running right next to block, ”Goodson said.
He was the offensive captain of the All States First Team, won the Warner Award as the state’s top running back, and now holds the state’s best football player award.
But his future rests on diamonds and he signed up for Walters State, one of the top JUCO baseball programs in the country.
His brother Cyrus is an All-State First-mate, his father John was an All-State lineman who was a Hunt Award finalist on the Fayetteville State Championship team in 1992, and his uncle Chris Grose was a starting fullback at Marshall. But baseball has always been Atticus Goodson’s plan.
“Ever since God decided to give me to my mom (Melissa, herself an all-state athlete and a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame at Woodrow Wilson),” Goodson said of her love baseball. “When he decided to get me, that was when my love for baseball started. I came out of the womb ready to play baseball. It’s just a great sport.
But he was also good at football.
Even with a tackle in front of him, Goodson was rarely tackled in the end zone, and he entered the end zone frequently, averaging just under three touchdowns per game. He’s scored at least one touchdown in 26 of his 28 career games.
He also got into the habit of handing or returning the ball to the nearest official after touchdowns, which wowed his teammates.
“I figured if that was me, I wouldn’t want to run after a ball because someone was partying when I was there to do a job,” he said.
In his career, Goodson has only been held within 100 yards three times, twice against Nicholas County in the two games around the Stiff Arms Game, and he was injured in both.
The only time he’s been held under 100 was when he first met rival Shady Spring, when he was just 35 yards on 13 carries.
He made up for that over the rest of his career, with his two 300-yard games against the Tigers and he finished his career with 865 yards on 56 carries with 16 touchdowns in three games, including a playoff game last season. He’s averaged 15.4 yards per carry over the past three games.
Goodson ended his career with those two games on 300 yards, another 13 games on 200 yards and another 10 on 100.
Five of the last six Kennedy Prize winners were from class AA schools, three of those running backs.
Goodson will be honored at the 75th Annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 1 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
Independence running back Atticus Goodson (3) dodges Bluefield defenseman Reginald Hairston during a Class AA playoff game on November 26 in Coal City, W.Va.
Dave Morrison is a sports writer for the Beckley Register-Herald and provided this story on behalf of the WVSWA.