[Editor’s Note: Before Kiyaunta Goodwin announces his college commitment this evening, get to know the four-star prospect by revisiting this profile from earlier this week.]
It seemed ludicrous to hear that a 13-year-old from Louisville could one day become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Five years later Kiyaunta Goodwin is one step closer to making that a reality.
Saturday afternoon Goodwin’s lengthy, star-studded recruitment will reach a crescendo when he chooses between Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan State and Kentucky. KSR will be at Aspirations Gym in Louisville when the 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive tackle makes his announcement at approximately 5:30 on CBS Sports HQ.
One of the 50 best high school football players in America, Goodwin’s taken an unusual road to success that is far from complete. There’s a lot to learn about the incredible athlete before he makes his announcement.
Middle School Stardom
Kiyaunta Goodwin always stood out. It’s hard not to when you’re a 6-foot-6, 330-pound 12-year-old. That size caught Vince Marrow’s attention at the University of Kentucky. In 2017 the Wildcats became the first school to extend a scholarship offer to Goodwin, just a seventh grader.
Other schools quickly followed, most notably Georgia, capturing national attention. Adam Kramer attended classes with Goodwin in 2018 at Olmstead Academy North to profile the Goliath for Bleacher Report. The article contained countless eye-popping pieces of information, but one quote from Chris Vaughn, the founder of Aspirations Gym and Goodwin’s mentor, jumped off the page.
“He’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent,” Vaughn said. “I’ve talked with coaches who have told me he’s going to be the No. 1 player in the country and the No. 1 draft pick.”
The quote was met with disbelief and doubt by some, while others hopped on the hype train.
‘Don’t go to Alabama’
The hype train did not just travel locally. A month after Kramer’s piece was published, singer-songwriter Angie Keilhauer, a former contestant on The Voice, performed a song inspired by Goodwin on a Nashville morning radio show titled, ‘Don’t go to Alabama.’
“I’m begging you please: Kiyaunta, don’t go to Alabama. Coach Saban don’t really care about you. That Crimson Tide is filled with Crimson lies. A man like you in a place like that, it just ain’t right. You could go to Florida or even Louisiana. Maybe start a band and skip it altogether. But, Kiyaunta, don’t you go to Alabama.”
— The Ty Bentli Show (@TheTyBentliShow) June 26, 2018
Since Goodwin earned an offer at a UK camp in the summer of 2017, he’s picked up 71, accounting for more than half of the schools that play FBS football. Alabama, LSU and Florida State were among the dozen or so that gave Goodwin college scholarships before he had even selected a high school.
It’s hard to imagine what that attention is like, so I will put it in different terms. Imagine spending 30 minutes or so before bed responding to every unread message on your phone, then waking up the next morning to 50 unread texts from college coaches. That’s Goodwin’s life in the final days before he announces his college decision.
It has not been all roses for Goodwin since he became a middle school sensation. During his first two years of high school the numbers on Goodwin’s scale grew, eventually reaching 425 pounds. Finally, he reached a breaking point. Inspired by his mother, he made a decision that changed his future.
“I want to take care of her,” Goodwin told KSR. “Once I realized the I can do something with football, I can’t do it heavy, so I gotta lose this weight.”
To help his mother, Goodwin had to leave the nest. Undisciplined with his diet at home, he moved in with Vaughn and rededicated himself to diet and exercise. Once the coronavirus pandemic took him out of the classroom, Kiyaunta spent almost his entire day at the gym, working out 3-5 times a day, seven days a week.
“He’s put in more hours on that machine in one day then I’d like to put in in a lifetime,” Vaughn laughed. “Obviously he’s gone through a significant weight loss transformation due to his hard work. It’s a testament to his dedication to reach his goal.”
Within nine months he lost 135 pounds. In the fall of 2020 Goodwin weighed less than 300 pounds for the first time since he was 12-years-old.
Decision Day is not the Finish Line
Despite the early hysteria, Goodwin has not been able to receive the full college recruiting experience. He attended plenty of camps early in his career, spotted regularly each summer in Lexington, but COVID-19 kept him from getting the red carpet treatment. If the NCAA does reopen the recruiting floodgates in June, he will likely still use all five of his official visits.
Kentucky is currently the favorite for Goodwin’s services. Of the nearly 20 predictions logged on various recruiting websites, only one projects Goodwin to leave the state. Even if the Wildcats do secure a commitment Saturday night, the battle will not be won until December’s signing day.
Goodwin’s size steals the headlines. What makes him one of the most remarkable humans I’ve seen play football is how well the big man moves. Height can actually be a disadvantage at the line of scrimmage because the low man typically has the best leverage. Explosive out of his stance, he uses his length to keep opponents away with size 11 hands that pack a paralyzing punch at the line of scrimmage.
When asked to describe his game, Kiyaunta called himself, “A hard worker, someone that’s a team player, somebody that likes to work, wants to win.” It’s evident that he’s a team player when you watch him sprint down the field after an interception in his most recent highlight reel.
When Vaughn said in 2018 that Goodwin could become the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, I admittedly was skeptical. Just because a kid has size, doesn’t make him a star. Despite the excessive early attention and setbacks, he remained dedicated to his goal. The next step is now within reach at the college level.
“I’m somebody that wants to be a program-changer,” Goodwin said.
A generational talent, Goodwin can be a day one difference-maker. Where will it be? We will find out Saturday night.