Nov. 3, 2011
By Nick Frank
Athletic Media Relations
If you're not on your feet to catch it, it will go right past you.
Growing up, that's what Derek Good's dad, Matthew, told him repeatedly. Initially, Derek thought that advice meant that he needed to be on his feet to catch a pass, or else of course, it would go right past him.
Like a lot of children that look up to their parents, Derek took everything his dad said as 100 percent truth. The two immediately became friends, playing catch near their home in Eugene, Ore., where Matthew supported the family as a technical engineer.
In 2003, Derek entered high school and he was adamant about running the ball and getting an opportunity to showcase the talent he knew he had, as a freshman. But coaches didn't see a starting running back; they saw a kick returner.
On his first return, Good broke a few tackles, got hit, and then did the unthinkable: He fumbled the football. Good remembers the sinking feeling in his stomach.
"It was my worst nightmare," Good said, flashing a coy smile.
The bad dreams continued after that freshman year, when his dad's job brought Good to Berthoud High School, much smaller than his Eugene school. Offered an opportunity to start as a sophomore RB after he dazzled coaches with his speed and bruising running style in practice, again, on his first carry of his first start, he fumbled. Not exactly how he planned on making people remember his name.
But Derek didn't want this opportunity to go right past him, and did what he would get accustomed to doing later in life. He stood up stronger. He went on to set the career touchdown record at Berthoud and led his team to an undefeated regular-season record as a senior.
Despite that success, he didn't receive a Division I scholarship offer from a Division I schools. With offers from most prestigious Division II schools, a decision loomed squarely in his path: Play Division II or walk on at Colorado State?
Again, Good heard his father's voice, and stayed on his feet. Sharing a dream with his dad, he was determined to be a Division I football player and prove to himself, his father and everyone who doubted him that he had what it took.
After redshirting as a true freshman at CSU, a new coaching staff gave him a look at running back during the spring. Good reeled off multiple long runs, impressing many people, especially his dad.
"He told me if I were to never step out onto the field again," Derek said, holding back tears, he was prouder of me than he'd ever been in his life because I had made it that far."
The summer following that spring, the Good family received news that would change Derek and his mother's lives forever. Matthew had been feeling ill and went to the hospital to learn he had liver and kidney problems. Two weeks later, Derek's dad passed away.
The loss devastated everyone, especially Derek. The father-son combo had become best friends and in a matter of a few weeks, Derek's life had turned upside down. Good relied on his mother and friends to get him through the ups and downs, the nights when he simply needed someone to listen, and the times that he used to pass hanging out with his old man.
To compound the situation, the family ran into financial problems. Matthew was the primary provider, and Derek, still a walkon forced to pay his own way to college, fought a stressful battle to remain at CSU and keep alive the dream he shared with his dad.
Need-based financial aid was available, and Good quickly registered. Initially, that move seemed to keep him afloat, but it actually provided a major road block. Under NCAA rules, any money received by a player from the school counts against a team's scholarship allotment, and CSU had no flexibility.
This new challenge could not have come at a worse time for the redshirt freshman. Prior to a road contest at Cal in 2008, special teams coordinator Larry Lewis had told Good he wanted him on the kickoff team. It would be Derek's first college game, which would fulfill a promise he had made to his father, and that thought alone meant more to Good than any dollar amount.
So Good then did what many people did not see coming, and returned the money so he could make his debut at Cal. Derek and his mom vowed to determine other ways to pay for school.
And unlike his previous debuts on the gridiron, which left Good with frustration and regret, he made the tackle on CSU's first kickoff. For Good, this was the ultimate payoff for all the hardships he had endured. After the game, while wearing a necklace that contained his father's ashes, Good called his mom, Heidi, to tell her the news. According to Heidi, the two cried on the phone, sharing a moment of happiness after all the pain.
Good finished the year on a strong note, earning the coaching staff's Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year. As a sophomore, he became a mainstay on many special-teams units.
But following that 2009 season, he received more tragic news. A car accident had killed one of his closest childhood friends, another blow, just when things were turning up. Good tried to do the only thing he knew how to do, stand up stronger. And his patience paid off.
The following season, entering his junior year, Good walked into the office of Head Coach Steve Fairchild as a walk-on player, and walked out a scholarship player. Another dream had come true.
"The biggest thing I have learned through my hardships is that not everything in life will be handed to you," said Good. "Whether you have dreams to become a great athlete or dreams to become the vice president of a company, you will have to work your tail off. That means when tough things come across your path you need to be prepared and ready to take them on and never back down."
That fall, after Tony Drake was left home for disciplinary reasons, Good was told he was going to get a shot at returning kickoffs at Air Force. Unlike his first return at Churchill High School, Good didn't fumble, and he broke the single-game Mountain West record with 263 kickoff-return yards, averaging 32.9 yards. Needless to say, he won the permanent job, and at one point in the season led the nation in kickoff-return average. He finished seventh in CSU history with a 25.8-yard average.
Nominated by CSU for the Rudy Ruettiger Award, given to a player that exemplifies courage despite challenges in his life, he also earned the role of special-teams captain prior to his 2011 senior year. A construction management major, he recently interviewed with a construction company, made the most of the opportunity and got the job.
He got the job because he stayed on his feet to catch that opportunity. Again, Derek heard his father's advice, just as he did in the moments before his dad died.
"My dad told me the quote right before he passed," said Good. "I believe he was preparing me for the real world and making me realize that you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you."
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