Goode Will
Najee Goode, the engineer turned Eagle, gets ready to make an impact
by Bill Donahue

Najee Goode grew up in Cleveland, and from an early age he remembers hearing his father belt out a familiar cheer: “E-A-G-L-E-S—Eagles!” He now lives in South Philadelphia, a short distance from Lincoln Financial Field, where, during football season, he gets to hear the same chant bellowed in unison by nearly 70,000 rabid disciples of the hometown team.

Goode, a linebacker who joined the Eagles in 2013, has a unique history with Philadelphia. His father, John Goode, played in all 16 games for the Eagles during the 1985 season. It was the elder Goode’s last season in the National Football League, but he imparted the honor of playing in Philadelphia to his young son. Today, the Goodes are the only father-son tandem to have played for the franchise.

“The fans are electric—faces painted, fireworks, you name it,” he says. “From my first kickoff here, it made it feel like I was center stage. The fans have a huge part to do with the momentum of the game. When people come to the Linc, you definitely feel it.”

Although best known for his work as a lineman, Goode was a promising quarterback in high school. Fate intervened, however when he realized he “had a lot more fun hitting people than throwing touchdowns,” he says.

Goode suffered a season-ending injury—a torn pectoral muscle—in the Eagles’ first game of the year. We spoke with him about living in South Philly, the father-son bond and how he intends to put his industrial-engineering degree from West Virginia University to good use after his NFL career has reached its conclusion.

It’s been more than a year since you joined the team. How has Philadelphia treated you so far?
The Eagles organization is lovely as far as the people and the coaches are concerned. … It’s a real tight-knit group we have here, kind of like the city itself. It’s a strong brotherhood, with everybody on the same team; it sort of reminds me of college.

Your father, John, played here for just one season, but from everything I’ve read, it sounds like his time here really made an impression on him.

My dad always talked about how passionate the fans were here. Guys like [retired Eagles] Harold Carmichael, Mike Quick—guys who were playing back then who are still around Philly now—they really talk him up, and hearing something like that makes me proud of him. People hear my last name and they talk about the things he did. At the same time, I have to hold my own.

What did your father teach you, not only about the game but also about the nature of competition and the importance of sportsmanship?

Like any father-son relationship, we talk about who would have kicked who’s behind, but it’s all good natured. He always reminded me of those crazy numbers—that something like 1,600 or 1,800 players get to play in the NFL [every year], and he would reinforce the idea about that window being so small. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time, but he would tell me, “You have to be a student of the game in addition to being physically ready for the game.” … You have guys like [fellow Eagles] Jason Peters and LeSean [McCoy] who can make anybody miss, and these are the guys I go up against every day.  

My dad, he preached about being successful on the football field, but he also stressed the importance of school. I was involved in engineering, so I had to be in that state of my mind, and I graduated in mechanical and industrial engineering.

Have you thought about putting your engineering background to use after you’re done playing football?
I’ve always been fascinated with cars, so some day I want to open my own garage and reconstruct cars. Someone always needs a car to drive, and you want it to look nice. I’ve always liked the Shelby Mustang GT 500, and that’s what I’ve got now. … I’ve looked into doing some other things with my family, other business ventures. One of them is football camps. Back in Cleveland, where I grew up, there are a lot of really good young football players, so we hold these football camps for kids. It’s something to really take pride in, and hopefully we can bring those camps to Philly, too.

Considering your injury, I imagine this season hasn’t exactly gone as expected. How is the rehabilitation work going?
As soon as the injury happened, I knew getting better would be what I would be working toward this year. Right now I can’t be on the field physically, so I need to do everything I can to make sure I retain my skills, with no drop-offs. My main goal now is to compete, compete, compete, and to help my teammates stay ahead of the game mentally, and then for me to get back out there on the field.

Photography by USA TODAY Sports/Derik Hamilton