The recent futility of Kansas football has been well documented. The Jayhawks’ struggle to remain competitive in the Big 12 has been blasted across both local and national headlines. The program’s failed Charlie Weis experiment was, and continues to serve as, a punchline for fans across the country. But for a team that has 12 total wins since 2010, hasn’t won a road game since 2009 and is following the lead of a fifth head coach (including interim Clint Bowen in 2014) since 2009, there isn’t one whiff of negativity in Lawrence as Ben Goodman and the Jayhawks prepare for the 2015 season.
Goodman, a senior defensive end, has emerged from a tidal wive of turmoil since arriving in 2012. He’s never played in a bowl game and his three teams have an overall record of 7-28, with just two Big 12 wins. For a guy that hasn’t experienced much winning in college, Ben Goodman couldn’t be more excited about both his final season in crimson and blue and the future of the Kansas program.
“I want to be remembered as the one of the guys that helped turn this thing around,” Goodman told the University Daily Kansan in July. “I want to begin the process of changing the culture of Kansas football.”
The former three-star recruit from Beaumont, Texas is one of a shockingly low number of scholarship players on this year’s roster. KU is expected to open the season against South Dakota State on September 5th with about 65 players on scholarship, a far cry from the 80-85 that most FBS programs carry. Goodman is one of just eight members left from the 2012 recruiting class. And there’s only five players remaining from the 2013 class.
But, again, none of that matters. All that matters is who’s in Lawrence and who’s going to help turn things around.
We caught up with Goodman during fall camp to discuss his approach after constant turnover in the program, goals for 2015 and love for calf roping.
What is the program like today versus when you arrived four years ago after an abnormal amount of coaching and roster turnover?
First of all, I’ve learned a lot under every coach. And that’s from Coach Gill, Coach Weis and even under Coach Bowen for those eight games (as interim coach in 2014). But now we’re just trying to earn things. Nothing is given. We’re going out there, working hard, competing against one another and we’re hoping everything falls into place and we surprise a lot of people come September 5th and throughout the season.
Describe Coach Beaty in one word.
What you are plans for after football?
My dream is the NFL but if that doesn’t work I’ll go back to southeast Texas and hopefully get a job as a process operator at a refinery.
What NFL defensive lineman do you enjoy watching the most or do you try to emulate your game after the most?
DeMarcus Ware or Von Miller. Both are outside linebackers and pass rushers. They get to the quarterback, have a lot of energy and are very good at what they do.
You can take a trip anywhere in the world and bring one teammate. Where are you going and which teammate is coming with you?
Somewhere warm in the Caribbean. I’d take Greg Allen (Junior – Safety). He’s my roommate so he’d be like “Bro, why are you not taking me?”.
You have a strong interest in the rodeo, in particular calf roping. What about the sport draws your interest?
I think it’s the hardest sport in rodeo. Most people think bull riding but that’s just hanging on. I’m trying to rope a live, moving calf that’s cutting left, going full speed, ducking right. Then you have to throw the rope to catch the calf, get off the horse, run down the rope to basically tackle the calf before tying him up. I think that’s pretty cool. I like the adrenaline rush and I just like to win. That was the (rodeo) event I was best at and I want to win.
Has anyone encouraged you to celebrate a sack with Jared Allen’s calf roping dance?
A lot of people in the rodeo have tried to get me to do the Jared Allen dance but I have a new dance called “The Bird”. It’s coming soon to a field near you.
Coach Beaty called you “By far the best leader on the team”. What sort of confidence does that give you heading into 2015?
It gives me a lot of confidence that the coaching staff has trust and faith in me but we have other players that are emerging as leaders too. Linebacker Marcquis Roberts, a transfer from South Carolina, is one of them. But I just want to go out and fulfill the trust they have in me.
What is the biggest misconception of Texas high school football players?
Most people think every football player is dumb. I have my degree from the University of Kansas.
What would you, or do you, say to younger players either at Kansas or elsewhere that are experiencing coaching and roster turnover similar to what you’ve experienced?
Start with the motivation and the hunger now. Don’t wait until your senior or junior year and start doing extra now. Because if you start early it will pay off.
What does the 2015 football season mean to you individually and to the KU program as a whole?
For me, this is my senior year and I want to go out with a bang. Coach called me one of the leaders so I feel like part of the season is on me and I have to get guys ready. I don’t want a losing record on my watch. And it’s also my last season so I have personal records that I want to break. I want to break the Kansas sack record, which is 14.5. I’m going for 15.
For KU, it’s just starting to bring the atmosphere back to Lawrence, bringing KU football back like in 2007 and 2008. We’re trying to bring life back and not have KU known as just a basketball school.
Kansas has seen a large number of players go to the NFL over the last few years, many that were completely overlooked in the process leading up to the draft and signing period. What do you think that says about the program and overall culture of KU football?
We have a lot of good athletes. People overlook us because of our record but we have a lot of productive players in the NFL so that shows you that we have athletes here. In my terms, they’re sleeping on us.