The following is the final part of a two-part column detailing Wheeling native C.J. Goodwin's rise to the NFL.
WHEELING - C.J. Goodwin wouldn't be in this position without his family.
He'll be the first one to admit that, too.
Pittsburgh receiver C.J. Goodwin (18) catches a pass during OTAs. Goodwin, a Wheeling native, was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Goodwin, an undrafted rookie free agent who was recently signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, knew after his final season at California University of Pa. he needed to get more exposure if he wanted to fulfill his dream of playing professional football.
After he turned heads at the Vulcans' pro day, Goodwin was invited to attend a regional combine in Indianapolis.
Problem was, the combine came with a cost and Goodwin didn't have the funds.
His sister, however, did. And she was glad to give her brother a loan.
So, with the help of his trainer Josh Pyles who drove him to the combine, Goodwin arrived in Indy.
"I ran a little bit slower than I did at the pro day," the 24-year-old Goodwin said. ''But, it was an amazing experience.''
The experience continued for Goodwin as he was invited to the super regional combine in Detroit, where his uncle drove him.
''I couldn't do it on my own,'' Goodwin said. ''My family has had my back since Day One. My Dad, he's extremely proud of me and my Mom is ecstatic. I appreciate all they do for me.''
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver clocked in at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posted a 40-inch vertical jump. (You can see how explosive he really is for yourself if you go to YouTube and search C.J. Goodwin Detroit Combine.)
The NFL Draft came and went, but Goodwin was still without a team. He watched his best friend Dewey McDonald, his roommate at Fairmont and was the one who talked him into joining the football team, sign a contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
''We talk every day,'' Goodwin said. ''He's been giving me pointers, telling me to go full speed in practice every day. He actually told me if I make it to the NFL and make the team, I owe him some money.''
Then, after his workout with Mel Blount, Goodwin finally got the call for which he'd been waiting.
Now Goodwin's days consist of waking up at 5 a.m., eating breakfast at 6 a.m., lifting and conditioning at 7 a.m., attending meets from 8-10 a.m., practice from 10 a.m. till noon, then rookie meetings from 1:30-2:15 p.m. where coaches talk to the rookies about how to handle their finances and new lifestyles.
''I was nervous at first,'' Goodwin said. ''I didn't know if I could play with these guys. Once I strapped on the helmet, though, it just becomes survival.''
Can you blame him? Imagine attending a meeting Mike Tomlin is directing or going to practice and seeing Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown playing catch. You'd think you were dreaming.
''When it really hit me is when they handed me that big old play book,'' Goodwin said. ''I thought to myself, 'Man, are they serious? They really want me to learn this whole thing?' That's when it hit me.''
Another wake up call came when Tomlin showed film of Goodwin in college in front of the entire team.
''During one of our meetings, Tomlin showed me on the big screen making catches,'' Goodwin said. ''Then he said, 'It doesn't matter how you got here, it just matters what you do when you get here.' That gave me a lot of confidence. I didn't really talk to anybody before, but after that, it gave me confidence to start talking with some of the guys.''
Goodwin is beginning to settle in nicely. He has a private hotel room in Pittsburgh - just like any other Steelers rookie - that allows him to walk back-and-forth to practice every day. He's also starting to develop relationships with some of the other players on the team.
''When I first got here, I was amazed by all the people who were around,'' he said. ''In football, you usually don't see too many people's faces besides the quarterback. Someone pointed out Antonio Brown and I didn't even recognize him. He's real cool. We've actually talked a few times and are starting to develop a relationship.''
Goodwin and the rest of the Steelers will conclude their offseason workouts with a three-day minicamp June 17-19. After that, there is about a months wait before training camp opens at St. Vincent College.
''My mom sent me an article after I signed and it just seems like what everyone is saying is that I'm not suppose to be here,'' Goodwin said. ''I don't believe that. They don't know the work I've put in. I didn't just wake up one day and the Steelers called me. I really busted my butt to have this opportunity.''
That's why Goodwin will make it. He has the heart of a lion and the mindset of a warrior. Whether he'll make the Steelers' 53-man roster at the end of training camp or sign a contract to be on the practice squad, he'll still defy the odds.
Goodwin's story is one we can all learn from. Never give up on your dreams.
Tony Viola can be reached via email at: email@example.com.