Carolina roots fuel New York Giants linebacker B.J. Goodson

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys gets stopped by B.J. Goodson #93 of the New York Giants in the first half of a game at AT&T Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys gets stopped by B.J. Goodson #93 of the New York Giants in the first half of a game at AT&T Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

B.J. Goodson has been equipped since childhood for the gritty comeback trail that awaits both him and the New York Giants.

The self-effacing Darlington county town of Lamar, S.C. registers a measly population of 959 (2016). That population denotes a continued annual decrease since 2002. One native happened to surface as the latest Lamar anomaly and defy modest expectations. For the record, B.J. Goodson has already made the monumental leap into the NFL. With the 109th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the New York Giants plucked a linebacker offering raw power and athleticism and engrained with his home-town’s integrity and resolve.

Big Blue just didn’t acquire a skilled technical contributor. Goodson is also a leader who promised to honor his privileged position in bullish fashion. The Clemson product became just the fifth Lamar High School student to breach the area’s diminutive presence under the talent scope and secure himself a pro football career. That statistic alone speaks for his skill-set.

New York Giants
New York Giants /

New York Giants

He followed linebacker Marshall McFadden, who entered the league in 2012. McFadden spent two years on practice squads with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams. It was McFadden’s predecessor as Lamar representative, however, that arguably set the bar Goodson must live up to.

Linebacker Levon Kirkland had racked up 1,029 tackles, 19.5 sacks and 11 interceptions by the end of his illustrious 10-year career with the Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles in 2002. Though safety Michael Hamlin and outside linebacker John Abraham had also spent time in the league, it was Kirkland that prevailed as Goodson’s primary influence.

An unlikely pathway to the NFL has prepared Goodson for the underdog label the 2018 Giants undoubtedly have. In addition, he’s no stranger to the adverse circumstances Big Blue strives to rectify.

Rich history sets high standards

The glittering Hall of Fame careers of Sam Huff, Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson have fuelled similarly elite expectations on linebacker cohorts regularly in East Rutherford. Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce remains the most recent New York Giants linebacker to earn a Pro Bowl spot (2006).

That season, 138 tackles, one sack and nine pass defences for Pierce were followed by team-high tackling figures of 103 and 95 for the next two seasons.

(Photo by Brian Killian/NFLPhotoLibrary)
(Photo by Brian Killian/NFLPhotoLibrary) /

Jameel McClain boasts the leading figures for a Giants linebacker since then with 116 combined tackles in 2014, complimented by 2.5 sacks, six pass defences and one interception. His single season with the organisation arrived shortly after Chase Blackburn’s 98-tackle 2012 campaign, which also included three sacks and six pass defences.

Between 2008 and 2012, Michael Boley surfaced as the Giants’ most productive linebacker. Boley was solid but unable to quite reach the heights of Pierce. Jonathan Casillas emerged as the next challenger to fill the long-unoccupied void in 2015. His 88 tackles became buried beneath a miserable season on defense for Tom Coughlin’s men.

Though Casillas staked an admirable claim with 96 tackles and eight pass defences in 2016, there remains a lingering taste for the elite contributions that resonated with Pierce and those before him.

In Goodson, the New York Giants may have their newest contender.

New system, new responsibilities

Goodson primarily featured on special teams in his debut campaign, registering just 14 defensive snaps to showcase mere glimpses of his ability. A glowing reputation out of Clemson for an aggressive tackling style all over the pitch came into focus on opening day in 2017 when Goodson flew to 18 tackles against the Dallas Cowboys.

He took his tally to 53 over the next six games in a gruelling season before being placed on injured reserve. Despite his injury woes, Goodson was still ranked third in “Tackle Efficiency” by Pro Football Focus. He missed just two tackles in his 355 defensive snaps.

Two seasons into his NFL career and Goodson has yet to have been granted an extended opportunity to shine. Much is expected this season, as linebacker coach Bill McGovern recently told

"“We’re looking for B.J. to come back, we’re excited for him. Obviously we thought a lot of him last year, but unfortunately he got injured. So, [we’re] excited to see him when he gets back and see how he is after the injury and the rehab.”"

Goodson’s anticipation and assertive hunting for the ball-carrier could see him flourish under James Bettcher, whose destructive 3-4 set up in Arizona ranked in the NFL’s top 10 against the run in each of his three seasons with the Cardinals.

A brand new linebacking corps

A blitz-orientated defensive style also bodes well for Goodson’s explosiveness and ability to adjust in tight areas. The 25-year-old will have welcomed assistance in the form of veteran Alec Ogletree, who arrived via a trade with the Los Angeles Rams. Both Goodson and Ogletree are expected to start as Bettcher’s two inside linebackers.

Ogletree may have been handed signal-calling responsibilities, but Goodson will remain an integral voice as a highly-praised leader on the Giants defense.

It is a role Goodson himself has naturally greeted as part of his makeup. As such, he began speaking in those terms.


"“I see myself as the leader, even though we have veteran guys. Those guys are looking at me for the calls and looking for me as far as responding to certain things.”"

A refurbished linebacker department now also includes free agency acquisition Kareem Martin. The NFL Draft also saw the G-Men select Lorenzo Carter (Georgia) in the third-round. In his third season, Goodson makes up a healthy blend of youth and experience. He’s become a key figure in the Giants’ efforts to restore some linebacking supremacy of the past.

An off-season scuffle with rookie guard Will Hernandez marked a fresh desire to make his presence felt across the league.

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As something of a rare emergent from the town of Lamar, a Giants revival is an opportunity for Goodson to showcase his talents.