Behind every great running back is a great set of blockers. It's an oft-repeated aphorism that has become a truism at all levels of football. (OK, so maybe Barry Sanders didn't have a very good line in Detroit, but the statement is pretty much true for everyone else).
So while high school running backs were piling up yards last year, it's the big boys up front who deserve the major accolades.
This was especially true at Gilman, where running backs combined for over 3,000 yards rushing in just 10 games. Thanks to two standout seniors, Costas Skordales and Tripp Trainor, and a pair of up-and-coming underclassmen, Hunter Goodwin and Brian Gaia, the Greyhounds ran over defenses last year, including the likes of DeMatha and Good Counsel.
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Of those four linemen, it's Goodwin who's the most intimidating and has the most potential. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Mount Goodwin has Division I schools envisioning the next Tony Bosselli or Joe Thomas. He's already received offers from Wake Forest and West Virginia, and more are on the way.
"He has incredible size, which you can't coach," said Gilman assistant coach Henry Russell. "He comes off the ball well and he really opened a lot of holes for Darius [Jennings], Dexter [Davis] and Kenny [Goins]. He has great work ethic and he wrestles, too, which helps him get leverage on defenders."
Goodwin, for his part, gives all the credit to his coaches. In his sophomore year, Goodwin didn't start, mainly because of faulty footwork and technique. Over the course of the season and the offseason, however, he added muscle and worked on his game.
But most importantly, he listened intently to the Gilman staff.
"Size plays a big role in what I've been able to do, but it's not everything," Goodwin said. "If I'm going against a kid who's 6-2, and he stays lower then me, then he beats me every time. So my coaches got on me to stay low, to move my feet better, to block a certain way … I take what they say to heart."
Unlike many tackles approaching 300 pounds, Goodwin came into 2009 with no baby fat -- a chiseled, lean 285 pounds. In offseason camp he excelled at blocking in space and moving defensive lineman back off the ball. By the start of the season, Goodwin was the starting left tackle in Gilman's "Wildcat" offense.
"He showed tremendous improvement from his sophomore to his junior year with footwork and leverage," Russell said. "He worked really hard to become an excellent run blocker for us. He showed this year he could come off the first block and get to the linebackers, which was big for our running game.
"And he'll be even better next season," Russell continued. "We expect him to continue to progress and be one of the best linemen in the state next year."
Goodwin was arguably one of the best linemen in the state last year. Just ask DeMatha, which boasted one of the most talented defenses in Maryland.
Early in the game, Gilman called a sweep left for Jennings. At the snap, Goodwin and Gaia exploded off the ball and knocked two Stags defensive linemen on their butts, allowing Jennings to burst through for a long gain.
"The DeMatha kids got up and just looked at each other," Goodwin said. "They knew it was going to be a tough game after that."
If there's one shortfall for Goodwin, it's pass blocking. He doesn't get much practice at Gilman, where running the football is part of the team's dogma, so he'll have to prove himself at camps and combines.
"Colleges would definitely like to see him pass block," Russell said. "We just don't do much of that at Gilman."
That being said, Goodwin has all the physical tools - size, power, footwork and athleticism - to be an elite offensive lineman.
But next year he'll have to be a leader, too. Both Trainor and Skordales graduate in May, which means Goodwin will be the line's lone senior starter (Gaia will only be a junior).
"I have to be ready to take over for them," Goodwin said. "We had the vocal guy in Tripp and the lead-by-example guy in Costas, so I have to step up and do both. I have to not only focus on building my technique further, but also mentoring the younger guys."
Russell noticed Goodwin starting to assume that role last year. In practice he would chastise the underclassmen if they weren't giving 100 percent. Afterwards he'd rehearse the blocking assignments for the upcoming game with his younger teammates.
"Tripp and Costas were our senior leaders last year, but Hunter fell right in line," Russell said. "He learned a lot from them and was able to pass it on."
Goodwin will be passing on more than just football knowledge. He's a role model for anyone, regardless of what he does on Friday nights. Goodwin, whom Russell called a "tremendous personality," is an honor roll student, a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a soon-to-be Eagle Scout.
"I've been involved in the community and with scouts my entire life," Goodwin said. "It's help mold me into the man I am today."
And what kind of a man is that? A man who doesn't take his natural gifts for granted. A man who believes hard work is the only path to achievement. A man who is humbled by his faith, even as he becomes a Division I football player.
"The fact that I have these opportunities is a blessing," Goodwin said. "I have to thank God for everything."