AUSTIN, Texas -- When the season was barely over and Texas coach Mack Brown took to the Holiday Bowl podium to assess it all, he stopped to look at Marquise Goodwin's stats, thought back to the game he just played and almost lamentably uttered:
"Marquise is getting so much better every day."
The reason for the lament was that this was the last day Texas would have him. Goodwin was a player on loan to Texas football. He is a track star, specifically a long jumper. As such, football is an afterthought. Or at least it was.
"He is talking more to us about how he wants to be more involved in football," Brown said.
It's undeniable that football needs him. The Texas passing game was in the bottom third of FBS with just 190 yards per game. While much of that can be pinned on the quarterbacks, the wide receiver position had its issues as well.
Darius White never developed. Jaxon Shipley never returned to 100 percent after a knee injury at Kansas. Mike Davis proved to be fallible. DeSean Hales contributed two catches. Miles Onyegbule was too young.
Then there was Goodwin.
"He didn't go through spring practice, wasn't here for summer workouts, wasn't in a position meeting," Brown said. "He didn't go through two-a-days, so to come back and show his passion for playing after the long jump in the World Games has been unbelievable."
More unbelievable was that Goodwin, who returned to the team after the first game of the season against Rice, was third on the team in catches with 33, third in yards with 421, second in receiving touchdowns and hauled in an 80-yarder. Oh, and of those 33 catches, 27 came in the last seven games. Or, right about the time he got back into football shape. So in the last seven games Goodwin was Texas' leading receiver. All that production came from a guy who didn't know where he was going through the first several weeks.
"Actually, in the first part of the year they were telling him what to do leaving the huddle, and they would say, 'Come over here and run a hitch,' or 'Run a corner,' " Brown said.
Now they are telling Goodwin, please come back to practice when you can. OK, the staff might not be above begging. Texas desperately needs Goodwin to be somewhat involved in the spring, because it is thin at wide receiver, and he can help with quarterback development.
That second item might be just a tad more important. To get a solid, realistic look at what the quarterbacks can do, Texas needs to have real game speed on the field. Goodwin represents that more than any other receiver Texas has.
Without him, getting a true measurement for the skill sets of the competing QBs will be more difficult. In addition, timing is always huge with quarterbacks and wide receivers. A bond is built. That was clear from the start with Case McCoy and Jaxon Shipley. Texas needs Goodwin to have that with whomever they decide is the quarterback for 2012.
But it won't happen in the spring and it probably won't happen in the summer either, as those are the times Goodwin is almost exclusively working on track.
Goodwin is not the first Texas player ever to face the track dilemma. He is not even the only one facing it this spring. Sheroid Evans and D.J. Monroe are both track participants. Jamaal Charles was one of the more notable two-sport stars in recent history.
The difference there was Charles participated in indoor track, worked out with the football team in spring, missed the occasional practice for a meet by and largely was present.
"[Charles] would be out there some, and then he would finish strong in track," Brown said. "Marquise has not done that yet. He may get a little more of that this spring, and we will talk to [track coach Bubba Thornton] about that.''
Goodwin already has expressed an interest in being slightly more involved in football during the offseason. At the end of the season, Goodwin talked about the momentum the team had built and that he had built.
But the higher goal remains the 2012 Olympics.
"That's definitely my plan," he said. "It's been my plan since I was little."
Brown doesn't want to step in the way of those plans.
"We want him to win the Olympics," the coach said.
They also want to win on the football field. And everyone involved knows there is a better chance of that if Goodwin is more heavily involved.
"So we're pulling him in a lot of directions, but he's matured and grown up," Brown said.
He is also crucial to Texas' success in the passing game.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation
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